Given the flat rate announced by Rafael Nadal in recent days, this year's US Open will be the first Slam since 1999 to be unable to count on the presence of Roger Federer or Nadal. This has prompted most fans and insiders to speculate that World number 1 Novak Djokovic will have an extremely simple path in his hunt for the 18th Grand Slam title in his career.
To be sure, the Serbian phenomenon has not yet cleared reservations about its participation in the New York Slam, which is expected to kick off Flushing Meadows later this month. However, Nole has been seen training on hard court and - unless surprising twists - should be in contention.
Heinz Gunthardt, Swiss Fed Cup captain, isn't so sure Djokovic will have an easy time in the Big Apple.
Gunthardt on the Big 3
"It could be the chance for Dominic Thiem, Stefanos Tsitsipas or Alexander Zverev," Heinz Gunthardt said.
"The US Open is anything but a free ride for Novak Djokovic. He also knows what he has to lose and how it can go wrong. The status of a Grand Slam event is relative, and the past has shown that too,” Gunthardt said.
"In the short term, it may be called into question, but in the long term a lesser meaning hardly sticks in people's minds" - he added. The Swiss Fed Cup captain drew upon the famous example of Wimbledon 1973 to explain his point.
"Only Ilie Nastase was among the stars, otherwise the field of participants was even filled up with the best juniors. Jan Kodes won, by the way, in front of full ranks. The Czech then also reached the US Open final. He is still a proud Wimbledon winner - very few ask about the circumstances today" - he explained.
“Because it affects everyone, 2020 will probably be remembered longer as a pandemic year," Gunthardt said. "But whoever wins the US Open will not be questioned later. And one thing is certain: he will have to work hard for it.
If you win, you have to do a lot!" The US Open will be preceded by the Masters 1000 in Cincinnati, which exceptionally will take place at the same facility in New York. The intention is obviously to reduce the movement of players, who will not even have to travel to Washington following the cancellation of the tournament.