As the U.S. Open approaches, some of the strongest contenders have either withdrawn or have a high probability of withdrawing due to injury. It is possible that neither the men’s nor the women’s 2009 singles champions will be on hand to defend their titles. In addition, the number one woman player-Serena Williams-will not be playing. The absences will have more impact on the women’s side because there is considerable depth in the men’s field this year. Here are the details.
Definitely not Playing
Serena Williams, 28, recently withdrew from the U.S. Open due to continuing issues with a cut right foot. She reportedly injured her foot on a broken glass in a restaurant in Munich, Germany in the days after her victory July 3 at the Championships Wimbledon. Despite the injury, she played an exhibition match against Belgian Kim Clijsters in Brussels on July 8, setting a new attendance record for any tennis competiton (35,681 persons). On July 15, she had surgery on the injured foot. Williams says that her doctors have told her not to play in the U.S. Open in order for her foot to heal.
This is the first time in the 35 years of tennis rankings that the number one female player will be absent from the U.S. Open. Williams had already won two of the three majors played so far this year-the Australian Open in January as well as Wimbledon. Although she is not the defending champion in singles, she is a three-time winner and she was the favorite for 2010. She is the defending champion, with her sister Venus, in the women’s doubles, but will not be able to participate. In a statement released by her publicist, she said that having to sit out this tournament was “one of the most devastating moments of my career.”
Juan Martin del Potro, 21, the defending men’s champion, recently confirmed that his right wrist has not healed sufficiently to allow him to be in good form for the U.S. Open and therefore he will not play. The lanky Argentinian had a break-out year in 2009, beating both Nadal and Federer to claim his first major (“grand slam”) victory at the U.S. Open, followed up by making the finals of the Barclay’s ATP World Tour Finals (a tournament limited to the top eight male players in the world). However, he has been unable to play since injuring his wrist in January. His wrist was operated on in May at the Mayo Clinic. Only in the past several weeks has his wrist been sufficiently healed for him to practice tennis. It appears that del Potro is likely to miss this entire season.
Justine Henin, 28, was a comeback kid this year. This former number one player returned from retirement to play well early in the season, making the finals at the Australian Open. However, she ruptured ligaments in her right elbow when she fell during her Round of 16 match with fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters at Wimbledon. She announced recently that she will not be able to practice again until October. According to a statement released on her official website, “It is still a slow recovery so I need to be patient again until the end of 2010 and I cannot take any risks.” Henin plans to return to the tour early next year. As a two-time winner at the U.S. Open, she will be missed at this year’s tournament.
Tommy Haas, 32, was not expected to contend for the title, but is a fixture on the ATP Tour with considerable talent. He had hip surgery earlier this year and has had elbow/shoulder problems and will not play in the U.S. Open. A German, Haas lives in the U.S. and received U.S. citizenship earlier this year.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 25, ranked number ten in the world and France’s best hope on the men’s side will not play. He was injured during his Wimbledon quarterfinal match against Scotsman Andy Murray (who won the match). He has not played in ATP competition since Wimbledon.
Doubts About Participation in 2010 U.S. Open
Kim Clijsters, 27, defending champion, was clearly experiencing hip and thigh pain during her semifinal loss to Vera Zvonerava in Montreal on August 20. Reportedly she will have an MRI to assess the damage. It would be very unfortunate if both Serena Williams and Kim Clijsters were missing from the draw at the U.S. Open because they are among the very strongest prospects for the championship. Clijsters is the supermom of tennis, playing up to a very high standard after the birth of her daughter, Jada, in February 2008. She is currently ranked fourth in the world.
John Isner, 25, was forced to retire from his August 18 second round match with David Nalbandian in Cincinnati due to an ankle injury. Isner fell awkwardly on his right ankle, tried to continue playing, but soon had too much pain to continue. Although Isner was optimistic for a quick recovery in the immediate aftermath, tests later revealed he has damaged ligaments. Patrick McEnroe, Davis Cup Captain, has stated that Isner’s participation in the U.S. Open is in doubt. (He said this during ESPN coverage of the Cincinnati tournament.) Isner’s own tweet said: “Ankle is worse than I thought. Need a miracle.”
Isner, who is 6’9″ tall, has become very popular since his 11 hour marathon match with Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon. Although ranked 19th on the ATP tour, he is one of the strongest players in the U.S. delegation and has one of the most ferocious serves on the tour. He and Sam Querrey are viewed as potential top ten players. If he proves unable to play at the U.S. Open, he will be missed. He is a fan favorite, especially in the U.S.
U.S. Open Draw Takes Place August 26
By the time the draw takes place on Thursday, August 26, the roster for this tournament should be solidified. However, some players remain optimistic about their ability to play while recovering from injury and withdraw only at the last minute. In the event of a last-minute withdrawal, there is a procedure for replacing players. In fact, these 11th hour replacements have sometimes performed very well when given a chance to participate in the major tournaments (“grand slams”).
Since many of the top players are continuing to play in tournaments even the week before the U.S. Open, additional injuries are also possible.
Who Will be the Top Seeds?
In general, U.S. Open seedings will be based on ATP (men’s) and WTA (women’s) rankings as of Monday, August 23. Seedings are important not just because of prestige, but because the top-seeded players are placed on opposite sides of the bracket. In other words, it is impossible for the number one seed to play against the number two seed until the finals of a tournament. The seeded players are dispersed across the bracket so that the amount of talent in the top half is roughly equal to the talent in the bottom half. Then unseeded players (qualifiers, wild cards) fill in the gaps.
On the men’s side, Rafael Nadal is expected to be seeded first, followed by Roger Federer, who has just moved up from third place to second place in the ATP rankings. Even with his August 22 win at the Masters 1000 event in Cincinnati, Federer falls well short of Nadal’s point total. Novak Djokovic, who has floundered lately, will be the third seed, and Andy Murray, Rogers Cup winner in Toronto, will be fourth seed.
The women’s seedings will be heavily affected by the absence of Serena Williams and Justine Henin and the possible absence of Kim Clijsters. Caroline Wozniacki may be the top seed, since she is presently ranked second on the WTA tour. Among the other top seeds will be Jelena Jankovic and Venus Williams.
For Americans, the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows, New York is the most important tennis competition of the year. The U.S. Open will begin on August 30, 2010. Although a number of key players – including Serena Williams and Juan Martin del Potro – will be sorely missed, there will be opportunities created for other players to excel.
Tournament coverage will be provided by CBS, ESPN, and the Tennis Channel.
“Serena withdraws from U.S. Open” by Associated Press staff, in Sports Illustrated (si.com) posted August 20, 2010, updated August 21, 2010.
ATP Tour Website
“injured Henin Will Miss Rest of Season” on CNN.com, posted August 19, 2010.
WTA Tour Website
Justine Henin Official Website
“Clijsters’ U.S. Open Cloudy After Hip Injury,” Reuters Canada, August 20, 2010.
“2009 champion del Potro withdraws from US Open” by Howard Fendrich, Associated Press, hosted by Google news, posted August 21, 2010.