Rafael Nadal officially withdrew from the U.S. Open Monday morning, citing the right-wrist injury he suffered last month.
The absence of the defending champion and world No. 2 is a loss for the tournament, but it opens the door for several other players.
And while the specific U.S. Open matchups will depend on the draw – to be released Thursday - there are contenders: The usual suspects of Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray; but there are also other stars that could break through now that Nadal won’t potentially be standing in their way.
World No. 3 Federer has had a strong summer hard-court season, reaching the final at the Rogers Cup in Toronto and winning an unprecedented sixth Western & Southern Open title in Cincinnati on Sunday.
Djokovic, the world No. 1, has struggled in the two tournaments after winning Wimbledon, but is always a threat in the majors. In addition to claiming his second Wimbledon title, the Serb won both the Indian Wells and Miami Masters in the spring, both of which are played on hardcourts.
Murray’s ranking has tumbled to No. 9, but – like Federer and Djokovic — he has won multiple Grand Slam titles.
A Nadal-less U.S. Open also opens the opportunities for younger stars such as Canada’s Milos Raonic and Buglaria’s Grigor Dimitrov to make their mark.
Both players reached the semifinals of Wimbledon and have shown flashes of their potential in the summer hard-court series. Raonic, 23, won the Citi Open in July and reached the quarterfinals at the Rogers Cup and the semifinals in Cincinnati. Dimitrov, 23, lost to eventual winner Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the semifinals at Toronto but lost in his first match at Cincinnati.
Spaniard David Ferrer has rebounded from his second-round loss at Wimbledon, reaching the final at Cincinnati and losing to Federer in the quarterfinals in Toronto. He has reached at least the quarterfinals in the past two U.S. Opens.
Swiss Stan Wawrinka, the world No. 4, claimed his first Grand Slam title in Australia this January but has posted inconsistent results since. Still, the 29-year-old has proven his ability to play on the big stage, including a career-best quarterfinals appearance at Wimbledon.
After missing the entire North American hard-court swing last year, including the U.S. Open, because of a knee injury, Tsonga has proved he can compete against the best on the hard courts, beating Djokovic, Murray, Dimitrov and Federer, consecutively, to win the Rogers Cup. The victories made him the second player ever to defeat Federer, Djokovic and Murray in the same tournament, according to ESPN.
The only other player to accomplish the feat? Rafael Nadal.