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Tennis News – Rafael Nadal arrives in Cincinnati, Djokovic withdraws — but has hope for U.S. Open

Rafael Nadal of Spain returns to Cincinnati. EPA-EFE/JAMES ROSS NO ARCHIVING

By Ricky Dimon

Still unable to enter the United States as an unvaccinated foreigner, Novak Djokovic withdrew from the Western & Southern Open on Friday morning.

Because Djokovic pulled out before Friday’s draw ceremony and prior to qualifying getting underway, he was replaced by the next player on the entry list as opposed to a lucky loser. Brandon Nakashima got in directly thanks to the Serb’s exit, and since Nakashima already had a wild card that now frees up the tournament to give a wild card to someone else. It actually has two to work with, as Gael Monfils’ recent withdrawal gave direct entry to Nick Kyrgios–who had previously been in with a wild card.

As for Djokovic, there is a glimmer of hope that he will be granted access into the United States in time for the U.S. Open. On Thursday the CDC announced that “unvaccinated people now have the same guidance as vaccinated people.” There has been no update to travel restrictions in the country, but the CDC added that those guidelines are being reviewed. The 21-time Grand Slam champion has two weeks for the U.S. to change its policy.

Djokovic may be out, but Cincinnati will have Rafael Nadal in the field. Nadal announced earlier this week that he is ready to return and he was already seen practicing at the venue on Thursday.

The 36-year-old Spaniard has a chance to regain the No. 1 ranking after Cincinnati, which would give him the top seed at the U.S. Open. That will be the case if Nadal wins the title and Daniil Medvedev loses prior to the quarterfinals.

This marks Nadal’s first appearance at the Cincinnati Masters since 2017 and he is bidding for his second title, having previously triumphed in 2013.

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.