Tennis News: Aryna Sabalenka and Rafael Nadal

  • Sabalenka could play in the Olympics but...
  • What's truly going on with Rafa?

Mike Frey-USA TODAY Sports

Beginning in late May until the beginning of September, tennis is going to go through a ridiculously chaotic time. In May, the tennis world will ascend on Roland Garros for the French Open, Wimbledon begins on July 1, the Olympics will be played at Roland Garros beginning in late July, and then the US Open is at the beginning of September. That is almost like playing four Grand Slams in five months.

This week, Aryna Sabalenka and other Belarussian and Russian players learned they will be allowed to participate in the Olympics as the International Tennis Federation has approved the measure. The issue is that there is a huge catch. To meet the qualifications set up by the Olympic committee, players must have participated in an international event such as the Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup while representing their respective nations.

The problem for Sabalenka and the others is that Belarusians and Russians have been banned from these events due to the Russia-Ukraine war. This is a bit of a catch-22 situation for the players as they might want to play and are allowed to, but they haven't been allowed to play in the qualifying events. In their statement about player involvement in the Olympics, the ITF stated that participants "need to meet the selection and eligibility requirements as set out in the applicable ITF Regulations."

Aryna Sabalenka might could play but Rafael Nadal definitely cannot

In other words, there is more clarification needed. Let's hope this happens before July.

One player who won't be playing at Indian Wells is Rafael Nadal, of course. He withdrew on Wednesday, just before the Masters 1000 was set to begin. In a social media post announcing the withdrawal, Nadal said, "It is not an easy decision, it’s a tough one as a matter of fact but I can’t lie to myself and lie to the thousands of fans."

The issue does not appear to be the Spanish great's hip, however. That injury was initially suffered in the second round of the 2023 Australian Open and he was not able to return until the beginning of 2024. After playing a few matches at the Brisbane International, he did not play again until the Netflix Slam this past weekend against Carlos Alcaraz. He moved around the court well against Alcaraz but there was a major concern by the end of the match when Nadal could not get much speed on his serve.

Possibly Nadal could not pass up playing the Netflix Slam because there was too much money to be made and the match was a one-off instead of potentially several days of matches like in a tournament. He practiced before Indian Wells but his serve was also giving him issues as if he had sustained an injured shoulder. He is not scheduled to play again until April and 2024 is definitely looking like his final year.

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