Rafael Nadal's announcement Wednesday that he will miss key US Open warm-up events at Toronto and Cincinnati with a right wrist injury will have some rivals "licking their chops."
So says Wimbledon semifinalist Milos Raonic, among those surprised to learn that the 28-year-old Spaniard, the reigning US Open champion, would be sidelined for the ATP Masters Series events, where he was also reigning champion.
"There's a lot of people hungry in this sport," Raonic said at the ATP and WTA Washington Open.
"It's unfortunate to see him go but ... there are too many that are hungry and are licking their chops."
Second-ranked Nadal, a 14-time Grand Slam champion, won an emotional French Open title in June but has not played since being ousted in the fourth round at Wimbledon.
Doctors told Nadal that he must rest the injury, suffered in training on Tuesday, for two to three weeks.
That will enhance the chances of rivals to capture a crown, including Canada's seventh-ranked Raonic, even though such formidable foes as world number one Novak Djokovic and 17-time Grand Slam winner Roger Federer remain in the fields the next two weeks.
"There's nobody losing sleep over it," Raonic said over Nadal's absence. "Because everybody wants to make the most of the opportunities."
However, fifth-ranked Czech Tomas Berdych said the game will miss Nadal.
"I wish him a fast and soon recovery," Berdych said. "To miss a player like Rafa a week or more, it's always a shame and especially at these big events."
Berdych noted that the line between practicing hard enough and too much is a fine one.
"You really need to plan carefully, what to train, when to train and how to train," Berdych said.
While it's easy to say you can work out for a long time in a session, there is a long-term risk in marathon workouts.
"How long can you last to do it?" Berdych said. "We're all getting older. we're all getting more matches under out belt."
Tournament organizers, certainly, will miss having Nadal as a drawing card.
"It's very unfortunate that Rafa is unable to defend his title," Cincinnati tournament director Vince Cicero said.
"He's a great champion, and his run to the title last year electrified our fans. We will miss him and we wish him a very speedy recovery."
"Rafa is a fan favorite and our fans will be upset by his absence," said Toronto tournament director Karl Hale.