Tennis is finally set to return for real next month, although fans will have to wait to see some of their favourite stars on TV.
The Western and Southern Open, the biggest event on either tour since the Australian Open due to the COVID-19 pandemic, released its entry list on Wednesday featuring a star-studded men’s line-up, but a spotty women’s field.
Eight of the top ten men will make the trip to New York, where the W&S Open will be held this year instead of the usual site in Cincinnati, including world number one Novak Djokovic and No. 2 Rafael Nadal.
Only seven-time Cincinnati champion and current world number four Roger Federer, who has shut down his 2020 season due to injury, and No. 9 Gael Monfils are not included in the initial entry list. 2012 semifinalist and current world No. 17 Stan Wawrinka also has not entered.
The big surprise is Nadal, who has been vocal in his concerns about the safety of playing in the United States, going so far as to say he would not play the US Open, which will be held at the same venue immediately after the W&S Open, if conditions did not improve in the United States.
The 2013 Cincinnati champion has been training on clay at home in Majorca and has committed to playing in Madrid the week after the US Open, leading many to speculate that he was planning on skipping the US swing. It is worth noting that even though he has entered the W&S Open, it does not guarantee his appearance.
2019 champion Daniil Medvedev is returning to defend his title. The Russian upset Djokovic in the semifinals last year before beating David Goffin to win his first Masters 1000 title.
In total, 40 of the top 43 men in the rankings have entered the W&S Open, including five former champions: Medvedev, Djokovic, Nadal, Grigor Dimitrov and Marin Cilic.
The women were not so lucky in attracting their top talent.
Unlike the men, the women’s side of the draw will be without their top two players, as neither world number one Ashleigh Barty nor No. 2 Simona Halep will make the trip across the pond for the W&S Open.
This comes as little surprise as both women have expressed skepticism about the safety of playing in the United States throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Only five members of the top ten will be in New York, with Karolina Pliskova, the current world No. 3, as the top player. Joining her are Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin (4), Kiki Bertens (7), Belinda Bencic (8) and 23-time major champion Serena Williams (9).
Also missing from the top ten are Elina Svitolina (5), US Open champion Bianca Andreescu (6), and Naomi Osaka (9). Only 39 of the top 53 women in the rankings are included in the initial entry list.
Madison Keys will return to defend her title. She beat Svetlana Kuznetsova in the final last year. Keys is one of six former champions in the women’s draw along with Williams, Bertens, Pliskova, and Garbine Muguruza.
Assuming the tournament goes ahead as scheduled, the W&S Open will take place from Aug. 21 to 28 at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Centre in New York City.