The spectators will return for the 2021 US Open, but the reigning men’s singles champion will not make the trip to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
Dominic Thiem announced on Wednesday that he would not play again this season due to a lingering right wrist injury that began to plague him at the Mallorca Open in June and also forced him out of Wimbledon.
“For the past six weeks I’ve been following the medical advice, wearing the wrist splint, doing exercises to stay in shape before I started training back on the track,” Thiem said in a social media post on Wednesday. “My recovery was going really well, but last week I hit a ball in training and started to feel some pain again. I immediately went to the doctors. After some testing they said my wrist needs more time so we all agree we need to be conservative.”
Even without that setback, Thiem’s chance of returning for best-of-five-set games in New York was a great opportunity. It has an intense, full-throttle style and takes huge cuts to the ball that produce exceptional spin.
Returning to his old level is going to be a big challenge. Wrist injuries can harm tennis players, leaving great talents such as Juan Martin del Potro and Kei Nishikori out of the tour for extended periods of time.
Thiem’s withdrawal from this year’s US Open is the final blow to the men’s tournament. Five-time champion Roger Federer withdrew this week shortly after his 40th birthday, announcing he would undergo a fourth knee surgery. Four-time champion Rafael Nadal’s entry is in doubt due to a recurrence of the left foot condition he first suffered from in his teens.
Novak Djokovic, the world No. 1 and the only one of the so-called Big Three to compete in the Olympics, failed to win a medal in Tokyo and withdrew for the bronze medal in the mixed doubles, citing a shoulder injury.
Some leading women are also in danger of missing the US Open. Serena Williams has not toured since she retired from the first round of Wimbledon last month due to a right hamstring injury. She has not yet confirmed whether she will play in New York. Number 13 Simona Halep, a former No. 1, withdrew from the Western and Southern Open on Wednesday due to a torn right adductor muscle. Number 14 Jennifer Brady, a finalist of this year’s Australian Open, retired from her match against Jelena Ostapenko on Wednesday due to a left knee injury.
Djokovic will likely do everything in his power to make it to New York as he chases the first Grand Slam in men’s singles since Rod Laver did in 1969. Djokovic has already secured the first three stages of the Grand Slam and won the Australian Open, the French Open and Wimbledon. But the physical and emotional strain of playing the Olympics far from New York or Djokovic’s home in Monte Carlo, Monaco, could certainly make his US Open challenge even more daunting.
A new generation is emerging, led by Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev. All three have won major titles and Zverev just won the Olympic gold medal in singles, beating Djokovic in the semifinals. But for now, they have failed to beat Djokovic or any of the Big Three to win a Grand Slam title.
Thiem’s best results have traditionally been on clay, reaching the finals of the French Open in 2018 and 2019. But he has established himself as a versatile threat, and last year in New York he managed to triumph in a nervous, five. -set US Open final against Zverev in which both fighters often seemed overwhelmed by the prospect of winning their first Grand Slam title.
Thiem managed by becoming the first player to rally two sets behind in a US Open final since Pancho Gonzales in 1949.
“We both had it on our rackets,” Thiem said of his friend Zverev.
At 27, Thiem became the first active player in his twenties to win a Grand Slam title in men’s singles, ending the Big Three’s winning streak, even though Thiem didn’t even have to do it along the way. to become.
But rather than gain wings from that breakthrough, Thiem has moved in a more earthly direction, not only with his wrist injury, but also his motivation during the coronavirus pandemic, which has made tour travel a psychological burden for many tennis players.
Since the 2020 US Open, Thiem has failed to win another tour title and has been unable to make it past the quarter-finals in any of the three major tournaments he has played.
He won’t get a chance to improve on that in New York and for the second year in a row, the reigning men’s singles champion will not defend his title. Nadal chose not to make the trip in 2020 and at this stage it also seems unlikely that he will make the trip in 2021.