• The U.S. Open is currently underway in New York
  • Federer and Djokovic aren't competing in the tournament
  • Nadal's first-round match is on Tuesday

As Novak Djokovic's absence at the U.S. Open 2022 has received a lot of attention, Rafael Nadal feels it should not.

The tennis ace says a lot of players keep missing tournaments due to injuries or other reasons but "the world of tennis keeps going."

Djokovic, who remains unvaccinated, earlier pulled out of the U.S. Open because of the country's COVID-19 travel rules for foreigners. Earlier in the year, he was not allowed to compete in the Australian Open as well due to the same reason.

"Well, in some way we know that Novak will not play for a while if nothing changes in terms of the rules, no? We know that since months ago. From my personal perspective, is very sad news," he said. "It's always a shame when the best players of the world are not able to play a tournament because of injuries or because of different reasons," Nadal told reporters at a press conference, Tennis World USA reported.

Recollecting how he has had to miss quite a few tournaments due to injuries, the former World No. 1 pointed out that the world of tennis simply kept moving forward regardless.

"But on the other hand, I repeat what I said plenty of times: the sport in some ways is bigger than any player. I missed a lot of important events in my tennis career because of injuries, without a doubt. Last year I was not here. Two years ago I was not here. [But] the tournament continues. The world of tennis keeps going," added Nadal.

Not you again: Nadal and Djokovic in  the 2020 Roland Garros final won by the Spaniard in straight sets
Djokovic and Nadal have been arch-rivals in tennis for years now. AFP / Anne-Christine POUJOULAT

Nadal, who has entered the final Grand Slam of the year as the second seed, recently recovered from an abdominal injury. He was forced to withdraw from Wimbledon just ahead of his semi-final game because of it.

The Spaniard has had a fine year so far, having won four titles, including the Australian Open and Roland Garros.

With both Djokovic and Roger Federer not participating, Nadal has a golden chance to further extend his Grand Slams lead. The Spaniard currently holds the record for most major titles among men's singles players (22), two more than Federer and one more than Djokovic.

Nadal's first round in the U.S. Open is on Tuesday against Australia's 21-year-old wild card entrant Rinky Hijikata.