Novak Djokovic’s unfortunate error opens the door for young stars to win a grand slam, but will success come with an asterisk?

Novak Djokovic Shows Kind Gesture After US Open 2020 Disqualification
Sep 6, 2020; Flushing Meadows, New York, USA; Novak Djokovic of Serbia leaves the court after being defaulted for striking a lines person with a ball against Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain (not pictured) on day seven of the 2020 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports/Sipa USA

In a matter of minutes Sunday, this year’s US Open men’s draw went from a closed book to a vast blank page.

Novak Djokovic’s default against Pablo Carreno Busta at 5-6 in the first set ensured that men’s tennis would have a new grand slam winner for the first time since Marin Cilic in New York in 2014.

And that winner will become the first to be born in the 1990s. Finally, some might be saying.

In his coaching career spanning 30 years, Brad Stine hasn’t seen a draw nearing the finish line of a major as wide open.

Not only has Djokovic departed — the Serbian world No. 1 was unbeaten in 2020 prior to Sunday’s remarkable events — but the other two members of the “Big Three,” Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, didn’t make the trip to New York in the first place. Nor did three-time grand slam winner Stan Wawrinka.

Federer is working his way back from knee surgery, while Nadal and Wawrinka withdrew due to coronavirus concerns and are readying for this month’s French Open.

Combined, the quartet have tallied 59 grand slam titles — and virtually quashed the hopes of the generation just beneath them. Andy Murray did feature in the draw but the Scot is, by his own admission, far from the form that saw him land three majors, thanks to significant hip problems.

I really can’t think of anything off the top of my head where the draw opened up to this degree, where with Roger and Rafa not coming, everybody felt Novak was the major, major, major favorite,” Stine, who formerly guided world No. 1 Jim Courier and two-time grand slam finalist Kevin Anderson, told CNN.

“I can’t really remember an event where you haven’t had one, a scenario where all the top guys are out of the draw for whatever reason like this year, and two, you have no one left in the draw that has ever won a slam.”

One has to go back to Wimbledon 2003 for the last time none of the male quarterfinalists at a grand slam had won a major. It’s the lone occasion in the Open Era, said the ATP.

If whoever wins this year’s US Open ends up anywhere like that year’s victor at Wimbledon, then they’ll turn out to be one of the best ever since it was Federer who triumphed on the grass of the All England Club.

The word ‘asterisk’ was thrown around prior to the US Open. A debate began about whether one, informally, should be used to denote this year’s champions in New York because of the weakened field.

After Djokovic’s default, Stine said it certainly wouldn’t be farfetched to revisit the subject.

“I don’t know that there will be a physical asterisk when someone talks about the 2020 US Open men’s tournament but for some there’s always going to be a, ‘Yeah, but.’

Whoever wins it will have a grand slam to their name but, unfortunately, some are always going to say that Novak got defaulted and Rafa just chose not to come and play and there were a lot of other guys who just chose not to play.

“At the same time, despite the fact those top guys aren’t here, someone actually winning one of these and getting through it, you’ve kind of got the lineup of what the future of tennis is going to look like. I think it pushes these guys in the direction more quickly.”


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