It was the great news of the day. Given the uncertainty prevailing in the world of tennis with the ATP calendar, the fact that Rafael Nadal has made an official statement regarding its presence in the Mutua Madrid Open 2020 clear one unknown, but enter some others. It is a really atypical season and it is convenient to analyze what this decision responds to and what causes and consequences have caused the Balearic to make its decision public at this point and without ruling on what it will do with the US Open 2020.
Causes that Nadal has decided to play the Mutua Madrid Open (from September 13 to 20)
When the new calendar was made official, the first thing that caught my attention was how tight everything was and the fact that a Masters 1000 began on the same day that the US Open. What seems evident is that behind this announcement from the Balearic Islands there is an overwhelming reality: it prioritizes the clay court tour over the hard court tour. Nobody dares to assure it, but registering in the Madrid tournament could mean resigning from the US Open dispute.
If Nadal decides to go to New York looking for one more Grand Slam title and make it to the final, he should fly to Madrid quickly and play just days later. It seems an impossible mission, especially considering current and potential health conditions in both the United States and Europe. It is well known by all that Rafa is passionate about the tournament in his country and felt that he could not fail his friend Feliciano López, director of a tournament that many stars might not attend.
In addition, the publication a day before this announcement of what will be done with the ATP ranking, has given one more argument to Nadal to make this decision. And it is that when taking into account the 18 best results in the last 22 months, and knowing that Nadal is the current champion of the US Open, the Spanish could never earn points in New York, nor lose them if he did not attend the tournament. Considering that Roma and Roland Garros also won them, he could only score points for the ranking in the Mutua Madrid Open 2020, where last year he fell in the semifinals against Tsitsipas.
Players will have points from the last 22 months, from March 2019 to December 2020, and they cannot add two results from the same event.
As if this were not enough, it seems essential to arrive well rested on the clay tour. Rafa has never liked competing the week before a Grand Slam, something he would have to do if he decided to play in Rome. The fact of having chosen Madrid, even at the risk of sacrificing the US Open, would imply being able to compete for a week and rest the week immediately before the start of Roland Garros, being able to travel to Paris to train calmly the days before the start of the Parisian Grand Slam.
Consequences that Nadal has decided to play the Mutua Madrid Open (from September 13 to 20)
In a context in which nobody knows very well what to do and with players who have already expressed reluctance to move to New York to play the US Open, a reference like Nadal registering in Madrid can generate a knock-on effect and make many others tennis players decide to prioritize the clay court tour. A boycott of the New York tournament is not ruled out, nor is its cancellation if the advance of the coronavirus follows the current rhythm in New York.
Many consider that there is already information within the circuit about a probable cancellation of the US Open and that is what has made Nadal announce its registration in Madrid. It will be a matter of time to verify this theory since between July 15 and 30 it will be announced if there is a tournament in the Big Apple or not. Regardless, what seems clear is that Nadal will not go to Rome, for the reasons stated above.
Attending to the fight for world number 1, it is necessary to clarify that a cancellation of the US Open would greatly benefit the Spanish since it would prevent Djokovic from scoring points in New York, where he fell in the quarterfinals. Novak won in Madrid, so he would avoid going to the Spanish tournament to focus his efforts on Rome (where he made the final) if he decides to compete on clay before Roland Garros.