Americans disappointed by Nadal's absence

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. -- Rafael Nadal kept playing at the Sony Ericsson Open, but he's scheduled a medical time-out for Davis Cup weekend, April 6-8, when Spain faces the U.S. team in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe said he had mixed feelings about Nadal's decision, which the Spanish team attributed to a foot injury.

"As a captain, part of you is happy because they're without their best player," he said. "But when I put on my hat as a commentator, for the good of the sport, you'd like to see him play."

McEnroe said Nadal's no-show for the quarterfinals is yet another indication that the Davis Cup format needs to be overhauled -- perhaps drastically, as in a three-week event at the end of every other year. He speculated that Nadal, who won earlier this month in Indian Wells, expects to go deep in this tournament and wants a break before starting the clay-court season.

"Obviously, he's not hurt," McEnroe said. "It doesn't fit into his schedule. You can sit there and knock Nadal and knock [Roger] Federer all you want, but you're putting these guys in a position where they have to make difficult decisions."

"Then again, our guys have always committed. They make the time in their schedule to do it. They've played on clay in Russia and Belgium the last two years the week after the U.S. Open. You have to give credit to Andy Roddick. He's missed one match in the seven years I've been captain, and he was legitimately injured."

Roddick was startled by the news, imparted to him after he won his round of 16 match against No. 15 David Ferrer, who will play for Spain. "Personally, I don't know if you can play Davis Cup at your convenience," Roddick said. "I think it's a year-long commitment. I don't know, that's surprising to me to say the least.

"I was looking forward to playing him on a court that was more suited to my game as opposed to his, and I don't know if I'll get that chance any time soon now … at the same time, he's a tough out, that's for sure. It's a little disappointing, because I think if you want to play a team you want to play their best and you want to beat their best, but you can only play the guy across the net. It's out of our hands."

The prospect of playing on fast indoor hard court almost certainly played a part in Nadal's decision, said McEnroe, who just tested the bounce on a visit to the Baltimore-based company that makes the surface. It's payback for the 2004 final, when, as Roddick later said, the Americans labored on soft Spanish clay that felt like a sandbox.

McEnroe said Nadal's absence won't change his game plan with Roddick, James Blake and the Bryan brothers against what is still a formidable Spanish lineup, but wondered aloud whether Spain might throw lefty Feliciano Lopez into the singles mix.

Lopez has a bigger serve and a better overall hard-court game even though, at No. 92, he is ranked well below Ferrer and No. 7 Tommy Robredo. Fernando Verdasco was the other player named to the Spanish team.

Global concerns: China's record on human rights -- including labor issues, press censorship and gender inequity -- will go under the microscope next summer when the world media descends on Beijing for the Summer Olympic Games.

While the WTA's aggressive expansion into China may make business sense, should the tour take any extra responsibility for setting an example in a country where women's rights have long lagged?

CEO Larry Scott, speaking at the WTA's press conference on its 2009 calendar reform, said the tour's partnership with UNESCO will provide opportunities to work for gender equity at the grassroots level. He also hopes the role models presented by successful, independent, athletic women will create a trickle-down effect.

"In specific markets around the world, we've always been very proud of being the first women's sport at a very high level to play in some of the middle eastern countries where we play," Scott said. "The fact that our top players play there sends a very strong and powerful signal … where society is at around the world in terms of some of these social issues, but it's also a catalyst for further effecting social change."

WTA president Stacey Allaster said tennis can be a platform for social change, as it was in the tour's early days.

"From the time the tour was founded, we've always felt that we had a responsibility beyond hitting forehands and backhands," she said.

Bamboo bling: Fashion maven Serena Williams said her prominent gold earrings, hoops with a bamboo design and her name in script across their centers, were inspired by the early '90s LL Cool J song "Around the Way Girl."

"He explains it in full detail," she said. Space doesn't permit us to reprint all the lyrics, but we'd describe it as a sort of inner-city-girl-next-door anthem paying homage to bad (read: good) attitude and a woman who can "break hearts and manipulate minds." Sounds about right.

Roddick on Serena: "I said she was going to kill everyone this year. I talked to her in the offseason, and she seemed to be pretty fed up with losing to people she didn't feel like she should be losing to, and she kind of had that little bit of an edge in her voice. When she starts talking like that, you probably should take her seriously."

Bonnie DeSimone is a freelancer who contributes frequently to ESPN.com.