(Reuters) – Rafa Nadal believes this year’s U.S. Open champion will still feel like a Grand Slam winner despite the tournament losing some glamour due to the withdrawal of top players amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Spaniard said on Wednesday.
The hardcourt Grand Slam, which starts on Aug. 31, lost its men’s defending champion in singles with Nadal deciding against travelling to New York.
Women’s world number one Ash Barty also pulled out last week, worried about significant risks due to COVID-19.
“The tournament is still big, it’s a Grand Slam,” Nadal told reporters during a video conference from Spain. “I am not that kind of a person, I am not that arrogant to say that the tournament in not big enough because I’m not playing.
“Of course, it will be a tournament under special circumstances but still a Grand Slam, and the winner will feel it, like a Grand Slam winner.”
The United States has more than 4.79 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 157,000 have died. The U.S. Open organisers (USTA) are creating a bio-secure ‘bubble’ in New York to hold the tournament without spectators.