Rafael Nadal Slated to Compete at the Western & Southern Open

It looks like Rafael Nadal is returning to the court…

The 34-year-old Spanish tennis star and defending US Open champion appears on the acceptance list for the Western & Southern Open, which was released Wednesday, alongside world No. 1 Novak Djokovic.

Rafael Nadal

While Nadal and Djokovic’s appearance on the list doesn’t guarantee that they’ll end up competing in the top-tier Masters 1000 event starting August 20, the list does suggest that 16 of the ATP‘s top 20 players are prepared to participate in the reboot of the tour.

The Western & Southern, moved from its longtime home in Cincinnati, and the US Open comprise a two-tournament event that the USTA is planning to stage in a “safety bubble” being created around the National Tennis Center.

Players who choose not to play after they’ve appeared on the acceptance list are subject to the penalty of having a “zero-pointer” added to their rankings record, meaning that they are treated as if they had taken a first-round loss. The sting of that punitive measure has been greatly decreased by the ATP’s pandemic-driven move to a ranking based on a 22-month cycle rather than 12 months.

The rankings, frozen since the tour was suspended in mid-March, will resume with the Western & Southern. Since two editions of the event will be played during the new rankings cycle, only a player’s best result will count toward his ranking. A player who pulls out of Cincinnati can wipe out the zero-pointer at the 2021 tournament. The same goes for the US Open.

Djokovic, who tested positive for the coronavirus following the collapse of his own Adria Tour exhibition series in June, raised a number of objections when the USTA announced plans to forge ahead with a US Open played under the strict health protocols demanded by the COVID-19 outbreak. His stance has softened considerably since, and he has been observed practicing on hard courts for more than a week now.

“We are very glad that [the US Open] is happening,” Djokovic recently told Eurosport‘s Tennis Legends podcast. “It is very important that we provide opportunities, we provide jobs, for players to compete.”

Nadal is a greater question mark. He has said he is “not OK” with the USTA’s insistence that the American Grand Slam take place without fans in attendance. 

The 12-time French Open champion has been practicing, but only on red clay. This year’s French Open will limit attendance when it starts Sept. 27.

Fernández to Captain the 2012 Women’s Olympic Tennis Team…

She may have retired from professional tennis play in 2000… But that isn’t stopping Mary Joe Fernández from heading to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

The 40-year-old Dominican American tenista will serve as the U.S. captain of the women’s tennis team at the games.

Mary Joe Fernandez

Fernández, who won three medals of her own in two Olympics appearances, was formally introduced on Tuesday by the U.S. Tennis Association.

“When I look back at my career, the highlight was being at the Olympics,” said the tennis commentator and ESPN analyst who won a gold and bronze medal at the 1992 Barcelona Games and a gold at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. “Just being a part of it, something you’ve watched on TV as a little kid and cheered, and then all of a sudden you go to being there. You ask yourself, ‘Is this really happening?’ I’m really lucky to get to be part of that all again. Three times, wow, I’m very lucky to get to do this again.”

Mary Joe Fernandez

Fernández will await the nomination process of her team, which will kick off with the release of the post-French Open rankings on June 11. The Olympic tournament runs July 28 through Aug. 5 and will be held at the All England Club, the site of Wimbledon.

She’ll likely have Venus Williams and Serena Williams, Christina McHale and Varvara Lepchenko, plus doubles players Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond on her team.

The team will be finalized by the USTA and the International Tennis Federation, then submitted to the U.S. Olympic Committee for final nomination to the London Games in the

One of Fernández’s biggest challenges: monitoring the health of Venus Williams, who is hoping to play singles, doubles with her sister Serena, and mixed doubles, all while dealing with the symptoms of Sjorgen’s syndrome.

“Venus has been very open with me with about how she’s feeling, which I appreciate,” said Fernández, who also is the U.S. Fed Cup captain. “She’s been fantastic in letting me know what’s going on, and that’s important for us to know. She’s done an incredible job getting her ranking up so she can be on the team. We’ll see how everybody does at Wimbledon and make some decisions going forward. I think we’re all just really excited about heading to London, especially Wimbledon, for the Olympics.”