With Simona Halep Out, U.S. Open Field Is Missing Many Top Women

With Simona Halep Out, U.S. Open Field Is Missing Many Top Women

“I think the biggest hit to the tournament would be Serena not playing,” said Tracy Austin, a two-time U.S. Open women’s champion who is now a Tennis Channel analyst. “With Serena, you still have the biggest story line with her going for 24.”

Women’s tennis is particularly deep and egalitarian at the moment. Plenty of established threats are still in the field, including Pliskova, Osaka, Petra Kvitova and the resurgent Garbiñe Muguruza, the powerful Spaniard who lost to Kenin in this year’s Australian Open final. There are also new threats like Kenin and 16-year-old Coco Gauff.

But there is no ignoring reality, either.

“This definitely has to be the weakest U.S. Open of the Open era,” Austin said, referring to 1968, when professionals were allowed to play the Grand Slam events, and afterward. “There might have been some Australian Opens and French Opens that were not as well attended, but that was obviously not because of the pandemic. It was because not everyone was playing them at the time. I think the Halep withdrawal is a particularly tough one. But I think the U.S.T.A. is doing the best they can in a difficult situation.”

In total, 19 of the current top 100 women have withdrawn, and more attrition is possible in the days ahead with a former No. 1, Angelique Kerber, among the undecided.

Some stars will be absent because of injury, including Andreescu, who has been out since October with a knee injury and recently injured a foot.

But the vast majority of absentees have concerns about traveling during the pandemic or about managing a dense tournament schedule that, after a five-month hiatus, has packed two Grand Slam tournaments into a six-week period.

The U.S. Open is set to run on hardcourts in New York from Aug. 31 to Sept. 13, with the French Open to follow on clay in Paris from Sept. 27 to Oct. 11 after being postponed from its original dates in late May and early June.

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