Setbacks for Nadal and Sharapova in their bids to finish 2017 on a high
Spaniard pulls out of Swiss Indoors tournament, and Russian crashes out of Kremlin Cup
Tuesday was not the best of days for tennis superstars Rafael Nadal and Maria Sharapova in their respective bids to end 2017 on a high.
Nadal, the men's world No 1, announced he will miss this month's Swiss Indoors tournament, boosting arch rival Roger Federer's dream of ending the season as the top-ranked player. And Sharapova was knocked out of the first round at the Kremlin Cup.
Nadal, a 16-time grand slam winner, told his Facebook followers he was skipping the October 21-29 tournament due to a knee injury.
"I sadly announce that I have to pull out of the Swiss Indoors Basel, after seeing my doctor in Spain," he wrote.
Federer beat the Spaniard at the Shanghai Masters on Sunday to close the gap at the top of the ATP rankings.
Federer has closed to within 1,960 points of Nadal with 500 on offer in Basel followed by the indoor tournament at Bercy in Paris and the end-of-season ATP Finals in London.
In his social media statement, Nadal said he had seen his doctor on his return from China.
"I am suffering from an over-stressing of the knee and the problems were already present at the tournament in Shanghai which now forces me to take a time off on advice of my doctor.
"After two great weeks in China, with the title in Beijing and the final in Shanghai it is time for some rest.
"I want to send a special message to the many tennis fans in Switzerland which have always showed great support and respect also on my matches with Roger. Hope to see you next year."
Federer put on a masterclass to beat Nadal 6-4, 6-3 on Sunday, the 36-year-old lifting his sixth trophy this season and underlining a turnaround in fortunes against his long-time nemesis.
The world No 2 ended a sequence of five straight defeats to Nadal at Basel last year, before winning their gripping Australian Open final in January.
Graham Caygill: Nadal can cement himself at No 1 with strong end to 2017
Sharapova, meanwhile, lost 7-6, 6-4 to Slovakia's Magdalena Rybarikova in her first match in Russia since returning from a doping ban this year.
The five-time grand slam champion looked tired and committed several unforced errors in the first-round match as she was cheered on by a large crowd cheered who chanted "Masha! Masha!" and loudly clapped her every winner.
Sharapova's first appearance at her home Women's Tennis Association event since 2007 came two days after she won her first WTA title in more than two years, the Tianjin Open.
Sharapova said that fatigue had not been a factor in her performance at the Kremlin Cup, crediting Rybarikova for a well-played match.
"I fought, I really tried to win this match but my opponent played well," Sharapova said after the match. "I felt fine physically given that I have just played five matches at the Tianjin Open."
The former world No 1, now 57th in the rankings after rising 29 places following her Tianjin victory, returned to the tour in April after serving a 15-month doping ban for testing positive for meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open.
She was unranked by the WTA upon her return but received wildcards to many tournaments for which a ranking is usually required to compete, a situation that prompted criticism from her rivals.
Canada's Eugenie Bouchard in April called Sharapova a "cheater" and criticised the WTA for sending the wrong message by welcoming her back.
In Russia, Sharapova has been portrayed as a victim of what officials have said is the unfair targeting of the country by international sports bodies that regulate anti-doping.
Russia's athletics federation, Paralympic Committee and anti-doping agency have been suspended over WADA-commissioned reports that found evidence of state-sponsored doping.
Updated: October 17, 2017 11:40 PM