First it was Novak Djokovic, sitting out the rest of the season to just, uh, generally debug.
Then it was Stan Wawrinka, sitting out the rest of the season for knee surgery and rehabilitation (and deranged 45-emoji sequence updates on his condition).
Today it is the ever-fragile Kei Nishikori, who hit a serve on Monday during practice, heard a “pop,” and later discovered that he tore a tendon in his wrist.
Nishikori’s camp has yet to make a decision on surgery, but all three players, who have been ranked within the top five this year, have decided to skip all remaining events in 2017, including the U.S. Open, where Wawrinka and Djokovic were the finalists last year.
Taking time off from the tour is nothing new, but this trend of super-early exits appears to be a fresh one. Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer shut down their 2016 seasons early to recover from injury—wrist and knee respectively—and Federer in particular has continued to emphasize rest, going so far as to take off the entire clay court season to stay spry for grass. Did he set a precedent? Probably. Historically speaking, some of these injuries, including Federer’s meniscus tear, haven’t “required” this many months of recovery. Maybe name-brand players who don’t necessarily need the money or reputation from touring are starting to pick their battles more carefully to maximize big title odds over the long term. What’s more likely: that these norms around injury changed over the last year, or the perfect synchrony of so many top players’ severe injuries?
Either way, it now looks like the top of men’s field has parted like the Red Sea to make way for a Fedal final in New York. But not even they are immune from injury woes: Federer’s back will have to hold up for at least a few more weeks if he is to deliver that.