Nadal withdraws from Montreal tournament because of abdominal injury

The National Bank Open lost some more star power on the eve of the tournament as five-time champion Rafael Nadal announced his withdrawal Friday due to an abdominal injury.

The news came hours before the unveiling of the draw for the annual ATP Tour event and a day after the withdrawal of Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic.

Neither pullout was a big surprise. Djokovic isn’t vaccinated against COVID-19 and isn’t allowed to enter Canada while Nadal is still recovering from a muscle tear that forced him to withdraw before his semifinal match at Wimbledon last month.

“I have been practising for a while now without serving and started with serves four days ago. Everything has been going well. However yesterday, after my normal practice, I felt a slight bother on my abdominal and today it was still there,” Nadal said in a statement. “After speaking with my doctor, we prefer to take things in a conservative way and give a few more days before starting to compete.”

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Nadal has won 22 Grand Slam singles titles over his career, one more than Djokovic. The Spaniard was set to be the No. 2 seed at the ATP Tour event behind defending champion Daniil Medvedev of Russia, who now competes under a neutral flag.

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The latest withdrawal gave American Mackenzie McDonald a spot in the main draw. First-round matchups were to be finalized later Friday with the unveiling of the 56-player singles draw.

“We are obviously disappointed that Rafael will not be with us this year,” said tournament director Eugene Lapierre. “A five-time champion of our tournament and the last men’s champion in Montreal (2019), fans were obviously eager to see him back in action at the IGA Stadium.”

Benjamin Bonzi of France and Australia’s Nick Kyrgios moved into the main draw after the Thursday withdrawals of Djokovic, from Serbia, and Oscar Otte of Germany.

Click to play video: 'Tennis stars returning to Montreal for National Bank Open'
Tennis stars returning to Montreal for National Bank Open

The Masters 1000 event, which returns to full capacity for the first time since 2019, still boasts a strong field with 41 of the top 44 players in the men’s rankings.

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Medvedev, Carlos Alcaraz of Spain and Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece are some of the headliners along with local favourite Felix Auger-Aliassime of Montreal and Denis Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont.

Qualifying play is set for the weekend and the main draw starts Monday. Three-time champion Andy Murray of Britain has a wild-card entry in the main draw along with Belgium’s David Goffin, Vasek Pospisil of Vernon, B.C., and Alexis Galarneau of Laval, Que.

The US$6.57-million tournament alternates between Montreal and Toronto each year.

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