The news everyone was expecting was confirmed when Rafa Nadal announced he would not be competing at this years’ US Open and if that wasn’t bad enough at a time when the sport attempts to rebuild itself, the organisers of the Madrid Masters announced it was cancelled.
All my respects to the USTA, the US Open organisers and the ATP for trying to put the event together for the players and the fans around the world through TV. This is a decision I never wanted to take, but I have decided to follow my heart this time and for the time being, I rather not travel Rafa Nadal
Nadal, the defending champion, reached the decision citing his concerns over the coronavirus pandemic and his apprehensions over the revamped calendar which he described as ‘barbaric’.
The US Open, scheduled to run form the 31st August through to the 13th September, was due to be followed by the now cancelled Madrid Masters on the 14th and then the Italian Open on the 21st leading to the rescheduled French Open on 27th September.
“After many thoughts, I have decided not to play this year’s US Open. The situation is very complicated worldwide, the COVID-19 cases are increasing, and it looks like we still don’t have control of it. We know that the reduced tennis calendar is barbaric this year after four months stopped with no play.” Nadal stated on Twitter.
“I understand and thank for the efforts they are putting in to make it happen. We have just seen the announcement of Madrid not being played this year. All my respects to the USTA, the US Open organisers and the ATP for trying to put the event together for the players and the fans around the world through TV. This is a decision I never wanted to take, but I have decided to follow my heart this time and for the time being, I rather not travel.”
Nadal, who had he successfully defended his title, would have equalled Roger Federer’s record of 20 singles grand slam titles especially as the Swiss is also an absentee from Flushing Meadows having declared some months ago that he would not be playing until next season in order to fully recuperate from knee surgery.
Their absence leaves the door wide open for Novak Djokovic to improve his own record of 17.
Djokovic, a three-time champion, now heads the list of entries which also includes Dominic Thiem, Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev, who will be eying the opportunity to make their Grand Slam breakthroughs. That is if they decide to travel to New York which some of them have recently voiced.
The Serb remains on an unbeaten 18-match winning streak for the season prior to the tour’s suspension in March. That run included his eighth title at the Australian Open and leading Serbia to victory in the inaugural ATP Cup.
As the ‘Big Three’ have between them collected the last 13 grand slams, the younger generation will fancy their chances to break that stranglehold.
Thiem is a three-time Grand Slam finalist, having fallen to Djokovic in this year’s Australian Open championship match and to Nadal in the 2018-19 Roland Garros finals.
Medvedev reached his first and only Grand Slam final last year in New York, when he pushed Nadal to five sets.
Tsitsipas, the reigning ATP Finals champion, reached the 2019 Australian Open semi-finals after beating Federer in the fourth round.
Zverev, a winner of three ATP Masters 1000 titles, achieved his best Grand Slam result earlier this year at the Australian Open, where he reached the semi-finals losing to Thiem.
Also in the US Open field is Italy’s Matteo Berrettini, who reached the semi-finals last year , world No. 10 David Goffin and two former US Open champions Marin Cilic (2014) and Andy Murray (2102).
Former finalists Kei Nishikori and Kevin Anderson are also entered, as is 2019 semi-finalist Grigor Dimitrov.
The women’s section is headlined by world number two Simona Halep. who will find tough challenges from the likes of Karolina Pliskova, Sofia Kenin, Elina Svitolina, Bianca Andreescu, Kiki Bertens, Belinda Bencic and Serena Williams.
Last week WTA World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty also withdrew from the US Open again citing significant risks due to COVID-19 but has said she will make a decision whether to defend her title at the rescheduled Roland Garros.
Her compatriot Nick Kyrgios, who has spoken out many times about fellow tennis players not respecting rules around coronavirus after the ill-fated Adria tour, has also withdrawn from the tournament.