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Rafael Nadal says rival Novak Djokovic missing the US Open is ‘a shame,’ but he does not believes it undermines the GOAT race in any way.

Nadal and Djokovic have been slogging it out for years to be regarded as the greatest player of all time, with many insisting the debate will ultimately be decided by the number of Grand Slam titles they win.

That race is currently being led by Rafael Nadal, who has 22 – one more than Djokovic. He will now get the chance to extend that lead with Djokovic absent from the US Open due to his vaccination status.

Asked by reporters about Djokovic missing the US Open, Nadal said: "From my personal perspective, it's very sad news.

"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."

"In this case, not having one of the best players of the history in the draw of a Grand Slam is always an important miss. It's tough for the fans, tough for the tournament.

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"In my opinion, tough for the players, too, because we want to have the best field possible. But, on the other hand, I repeat what I've said plenty of times: the sport in some ways is bigger than any player.”

Some have suggested that Novak Djokovic missing tournaments due to his vaccination status is starting to undermine the GOAT race.

Rafael Nadal backed to win US Open by John McEnroe

However, Rafael Nadal has dismissed those suggestions, pointing out that he has missed a lot of tournaments due to injuries.

"I've missed a lot of important events in my tennis career because of injuries," Nadal said. "Last year I was not here. Two years ago I was not here. The tournament continues. The world of tennis keeps going, even if it's not good news for everyone."

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