Rafael Nadal could follow Roger Federer’s lead and withdraw from the Laver Cup following Friday night’s doubles. The Swiss star is retiring at the team tournament and will play the final match of his career alongside Nadal in the doubles before pulling out to let alternate Matteo Berrettini take his place in singles. And the world No 3 could follow suit with the help of second alternate Cameron Norrie.
Laver Cup rules state that all players must play one singles match in the first two days of the event, meaning Federer will bend the rules by having Berrettini tag in for him on Saturday. And it appears that Nadal could do the same after Team Europe brought in Norrie as a second alternate.
The British No 1 has accompanied the team at all promotional and press events in the lead-up to the tournament despite not being an official part of the initial squad. And Team Europe’s reliance on a second alternate could hint that they believe they will need to all in Norrie, with first alternate Berrettini already guaranteed to take Federer’s place over the weekend.
Nadal will partner Federer to help his long-time rival end his career with one final doubles match at the Laver Cup. The pair will face Team World’s Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe, after which the 41-year-old will withdraw from the rest of the tournament after admitting he wasn’t physically able to play two matches over the weekend.
The 22-time Major champion was still dealing with the effects of an abdominal injury he picked up at Wimbledon and had been dealing with personal issues after reports that his pregnant wife had suffered a health scare and was admitted to hospital. And he seemed to confirm that this was still a concern following his late arrival in London for the Laver Cup.
Nadal is the most likely member of the squad to end his Laver Cup early. The Spaniard cast doubt over whether he would even play this weekend’s team event following his exit from the recent US Open, at the time saying: “I need to go back [home], fix things and I don’t know when I’m going to come back. When I feel ready mentally to compete again… I will do it.”
The rest of Team Europe and Team World arrived by Wednesday in time for a photo op at the Tower of London that night but Nadal joined them a day later and thanked his teammates for waiting for him as he said: “I can’t thank enough the rest of the team for wait[ing for] me until today that I had a tough personal situation now, so thank you very much, everyone, first of all.”
Given his comments at the US Open as well as his ongoing personal issues, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the 36-year-old opted not to strain himself in singles and also withdrew following his doubles match with Federer, with Norrie taking his place for Saturday’s singles match. If Nadal does withdraw, he will have to choose between staying to cheer on his team from the sidelines or returning home to Mallorca to be with his wife.