Well, this sucks. When Rafael Nadal announced that he'd be skipping his chance to defend his Olympic gold medal, the hope was that the extra time off would have him ready in time for the U.S. Open later this month. Alas, the knee tendinitis that shelved him in London and kept him out of Masters tournaments in Toronto and Cincinnati hasn't abated, and Rafa announced this morning via Twitter that he won't be ready in time for Flushing on August 27.
Perhaps it was to be expected, but this is particularly disappointing news. In recent years, the Open has been one of the foremost battlegrounds for the delightful rivalry between Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Nadal, of course, bested Djokovic in the 2010 final, then was the Serb's runner-up last year. This year, we've already seen Nadal beaten by Djokovic in that epic Australian Open final only to get his revenge at Roland Garros. Nadal's early-round collapse at Wimbledon and unavailability for the Olympics left the Open as this year's last major chance to re-rematch with Djokovic and break the season's tie.
Meanwhile, this doesn't help with burgeoning concerns that Nadal is slowing down for good. Such a powerful and slide-happy (on clay, anyway) player just can't be himself through knee tendinitis. We mustn't forget, though, that, as Simon Reed has pointed out, Nadal coped with similar knee problems in 2007 and 2008 and was forced to pull out of Wimbledon and other major events in 2009, but was just fine once he came back healthy. This knee trouble sucks, but it's a familiar issue and one that's been handily overcome in the past.
So, with Nadal's longevity in mind, the decision to stay off the court is probably for the best, and it shouldn't necessarily be discouraging. Still a major bummer for fans of the Open.