The United States Open, slated to begin in New York on Monday, is nowhere near at full strength, but will it really be the Asterisk Open?
On Sunday evening, 24 of the 100 best women were missing, including six of the eight best and three of the four reigning Grand Slam individual champions: Ashleigh Barty, Simona Halep and Bianca Andreescu. Although Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka will be in the field, there will be the fewest top 10 players – four – of any US Open since the WTA rankings began in 1975.
Only 12 of the top 100 men were eliminated on Sunday, but this will be the first Grand Slam of the 21st century without Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. Stan Wawrinka, three-time great individual champion, will also be missing.
The absences are mainly due to concerns about travel and planning during the pandemic.
However, if you want to put asterisks on Grand Slam tennis tournaments with weakened fields, you should have a large box of asterisks.
"It's messy and it's difficult," said Steve Flink, an American tennis historian.
First there is the amateur era, which lasted until 1968 and forbade professionals to compete in the four major tournaments: the Australian championships, the French championships, Wimbledon and the US championships.
By 1968, leading men – like Jack Kramer, Ken Rosewall, and Rod Laver – often turned professional after making a name for themselves in amateur gaming, which meant that Grand Slam events rarely had all of the best men in the world present, just them best. “Amateurs,” some of whom received under-the-table payments to afford to remain amateurs.