Now this is getting worrying. After losing to Lukas Rosol in the second round of the Wimbledon tournament, Nadal announced he won’t be playing in the Olympic games, in order to rest and take care of his bad knees. Then came the announcement of dropping out from the Canada Masters, and now comes the announcement of dropping out from Cincinnati. How bad is it, really?

The clay court season was pretty much perfect for Nadal, setting up his wonderful Roland Garros. After losing at the Australian Open to Djokovic, he took a bit of time off. Then came the loss to Roger Federer at Indian Wells. In Miami, he withdrew from his semifinal against Andy Murray. The Hard courts are harder and harder on his body.

But on clay, which has always been his favorite playground by far, Nadal was perfect. Putting aside the blue clay affair in Madrid, Nadal didn’t drop a single set from April 15 to June 10, winning in Monte Carlo (beating Djokovic in the final), Barcelona (beating Ferrer in the final), Rome (Djokovic again) and then the French Open, winning it for a record seventh time, dropping one set in the final to Novak Djokovic.

But the return to the faster courts has been disastrous for Nadal, who kept talking about needing rest, but he wasn’t planning on showing up at Wimbledon without some sort of adaptor tourney. The tournament in Halle proved something was off, but the loss at Wimbledon was the cart coming off the wheels. Soon after came the following announcement – I do not find myself in a condition to compete. It is one of the saddest moments of my career.

The pre-Cincinnati and Toronto news haven’t been much different – Hi all, another message to announce something that definitely doesn’t make me happy but unfortunately I won’t be competing at the tournament in Cincinnati next week. I am still not ready to play. I have many fans in Cincy and unforgettable moments such as 2008. I am continuing with my recovery and practice. Thanks.

Image source: gototennis.com

Nadal will be the only player in the top 10 of the ATP rankings to miss the tournament in Cincy, but both Roger Federer and Andy Murray are out of the Toronto tournament, so Nadal’s not the alien there. Still, there something very worrying about this absence, very similar to the one in 2009, only Nadal is three years older this time.

In 2009, Nadal actually dropped out of Wimbledon after losing to Robin Soderling at the French Open, his only loss ever in Paris. He dropped out of the Masters in Toronto as well, but he returned to the Cincinnati Masters and reached the semifinals, setting himself up for another semifinal at the US Open. The next year, 2010, was pretty much perfect for him in every possible way, winning three grand slam titles.

But Nadal is three years older now, a bit more vulnerable, with a lot more wear and tear on his body. It’s hard to believe he’ll be giving up on the US Open, but obviously in injury than what he or anyone else initially believed it to be. It’s hard to make predictions without actually knowing what’s wrong, based on Nadal’s ability to come back strong from each of his past injuries. But there’s always the one that starts the decline, sometimes even ending a career. We need to hope this isn’t it.