Is winning the 2020 US Open the same achievement as winning any other Grand Slam?

In the latest edition of Match Points, former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli and New York Times journalist Ben Rothenberg discuss whether this year’s US Open champions will forever have an asterisk next to their names.

September 5, 2020

The 2020 US Open has a slightly depleted player field.

Some big names missed out on the draw, many for coronavirus-related reasons, opting not to travel to New York in the middle of a pandemic.

Women’s world No 1 Ash Barty and No 2 Simona Halep both chose not to enter, with defending champion Bianca Andreescu missing out because of injury.

Similarly, the 2019 champion on the men’s side, Rafael Nadal, decided to stay in Europe and prepare for his beloved Roland-Garros, while Roger Federer is still recovering from surgery.


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Tras pensarlo mucho he decidido no participar en el US Open de este año. La situación sanitaria sigue muy complicada en todo el mundo con casos de COVID-19 y rebrotes que parecen fuera de control. Sabemos que el calendario de este año tras 4 meses sin jugar es una barbaridad, si bien entiendo y agradezco los esfuerzos que todas las partes están poniendo para que se jueguen torneos. Acabamos de tener la noticia de que el torneo de Madrid también ha sido anulado. A dia de hoy la situación es complicada para hacer torneos y todo mi respeto a la USTA, organizadores del US Open y a la ATP por los esfuerzos que están haciendo para que se juegue el torneo para los millones de fans que lo verán por TV o en las plataformas digitales. Esta es una decisión que no querría tomar pero en este caso sigo mi corazón para decidir que por ahora prefiero no viajar. After many thoughts I have decided not to play this year’s US Open. The situation is very complicated worldwide, the COVID-19 cases are increasing, it looks like we still don’t have control of it. We know that the reduced tennis calendar is barbaric this year after 4 months stopped with no play, I understand and thank for the efforts they are putting in to make it happen. We have just seen the announcement of Madrid not being played this year. All my respects to the USTA, the US Open organisers and the ATP for trying to put the event together for the players and the fans around the world through TV. This is a decision I never wanted to take but I have decided to follow my heart this time and for the time being I rather not travel.

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So does that mean that whoever wins this year will not be considered a true Grand Slam champion?

Writer Ben Rothenberg dismisses the suggestion.

“There are so many Grand Slams that had minimal attendance from top players,” he said, harking back to the 1970s and 1980s. “We’ll remember the context of 2020.”

‘Draining mentally’

Former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli points out that the requirements of winning this year’s tournament are just the same as every other year.

“There are a lot of outside things that make it so difficult to be on the court and compete,” she said, adding: For the ones who will win the US Open, it will be difficult to win Roland-Garros, it will be so draining mentally. Absolutely you can call them Grand Slam champions.”

However, both point out that players were still able to travel in and out of the USA – and if a Grand Slam took place under more restricted arrangements, then the situation would be different.

“We have a lot of very credible players playing great,” says Rothenberg. “If the Australian Open happened and only Australian players can play, that’s a wildly different scenario.”

Bartoli agrees.

“If you had a US Open with [just] US players, it’s very difficult to call it a Grand Slam.”

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