Halep joins withdrawals from the ‘Asterisk Slam’
Decision leaves US Open with two of world’s top eight Osaka is the highest earner in women’s sport with £28m
Reigning Wimbledon champion Simona Halep has joined the long list of players opting out of the US Open, which is due to start behind closed doors on Aug 30.
Halep’s withdrawal means that only two of the world’s eight topranked women – Karolina Pliskova, of the Czech Republic, and reigning Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin, of the United States – are expected to participate.
World No 9 Serena Williams – who made her competitive return last week at the Top Seed Open in Lexington, Kentucky – will be the third seed and bookmakers’ favourite. The weakened field should give Williams an improved chance of finally matching Margaret Court’s record tally of 24 major titles. Yet there are already whispers that, whoever wins, the event will be known as “the Asterisk Slam”.
“I always said that I would put my health at the heart of my decision,” Halep said on social media, “and I therefore prefer to stay and train in Europe.” The Romanian won the Prague Open – which was played on clay courts – on Sunday, and will surely have a strong chance at the delayed French Open. Play is scheduled to start in Paris on Sept 27, two weeks after the US Open finishes.
One disappointment for the US Open’s organisers is that both defending champions will be absent.
Bianca Andreescu withdrew on Friday on fitness grounds, a fortnight after Rafael Nadal had announced that he would not be participating. But Dan Evans, the British No1, told the Tennis Podcast yesterday: “I think the players should try to make it work for tennis. Other sports have got on with it.”
Evans has already travelled to New York with his coach, Mark Hilton, and his girlfriend, Aleah. For the first 24 hours, they were holed up in their rooms at the Long Island hotel waiting for the results of their Covid-19 tests to come through.
Once their negative status was assured, they were able to travel to Flushing Meadows for practice. “The site itself looks a bit bigger, if that makes any sense,” Evans said. “They’re putting in gyms and stuff. There’s more space because there’s no people onsite. You can sit in places you never thought you could sit before. I think they have done a good job with the site and with the hotel. I was worried that it would be cramped and no outside space, but that’s not the case.
“I don’t think anyone will break the bubble. I think it will work if people want it to work. You’ve got a few names which have dropped out, but [world No1 Novak] Djokovic was there today, so you’ve got some good names still playing the tournament.”
Evans’s positive verdict was supported by John Millman, the world No 43 from Australia, who tweeted: “It’s noticeable how hard the United
States Tennis Association has worked to create a comfortable and safe environment. I’m pumped to be back playing.”
Meanwhile, the latest Forbes list of the world’s highest-paid female athletes has confirmed beyond doubt that tennis is the most lucrative sport for women.
The top nine places are occupied by tennis players, before United States footballer Alex Morgan breaks the run at No10.
At the top, Naomi Osaka’s estimated income of just over $37million (£28million) in 2020 puts her ahead of Serena Williams’s $36million. This economic argument surely explains why America’s tennis talent is so strongly skewed towards the women, with 17 of them appearing in the world’s top 100 as against only eight for the men. The same phenomenon does not apply in the UK, with three men in the top 100 and only two women.
Staying put: Simona Halep will remain in Europe rather than travelling to the US