Why Serena Williams, Roger Federer, other tennis stars aren’t playing in 2021 US Open

By | September 1, 2021

The final major of the 2021 season is here.

Beginning Aug. 30, the tennis world will turn its attention to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y., for the U.S. Open. Some of the sport’s biggest stars will not be hitting the hard courts, however.

While Novak Djokovic begins his quest for the first calendar Grand Slam since Steffi Graf won all four majors in 1988, a number of his toughest opponents will be out. Defending champ Dominic Thiem will not play; neither will Rafael Nadal. In fact, Nadal, Roger Federer and Serena Williams — who have a combined 15 U.S. Open titles — are all out. This will be the first time since 1997 that none of the three are in the tournament.

Unfortunately, they’re not the only ones who will be missed in New York. Sporting News breaks down which top stars have withdrawn from the 2021 U.S. Open.

Top tennis stars out of 2021 US Open

Update: On Aug. 30, Jelena Ostapenko (medical reasons), Jennifer Brady (knee injury) and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (injury) withdrew from the tournament.

(In alphabetical order)

Roger Federer

The 40-year Swiss star announced Aug. 15 on Instagram that he underwent knee surgery — the third on his right knee — and would miss a considerable amount of time. The 20-time Grand Slam champ is hoping to return but understands how difficult it will be to come back once more.

“I am realistic, don’t get me wrong,” Federer said. “I know how difficult it is at this age right now to do another surgery and try it, but look, I want to be healthy and I’ll go through the rehab process also with a goal while I’m still active, which I think is going to help me during this long period of time.”

MORE: Federer out ‘many months’ after knee surgery

Sofia Kenin

The rising American star, who won the 2020 Australian Open, withdrew from the U.S. Open after testing positive for COVID-19. The world’s No. 5-ranked player said she was vaccinated and has mild symptoms.

Rafael Nadal

Unlike some of the other players on this list, Nadal announced on Instagram that he is shutting down for the rest of the year.

“I have been suffering too much with my foot for the last year,” he said. “I missed a lot of important events for me like the US Open now, like Wimbledon, Olympics and many other events that are so important and emotional for me.”

He noted he experienced a similar issue in 2005 and the prognosis then wasn’t good; however, as we all know — and he stressed — that prognosis was wrong. He won the French Open before the injury and now has 20 major victories total, including four U.S. Opens.

Milos Raonic

The USTA announced Aug. 25 that the Canadian had withdrawn because of a right leg injury. Raonic has been battling a calf injury and also missed the French Open, Wimbledon and the Olympics.

Dominic Thiem

The defending champ posted on Twitter his withdrawal because of a wrist injury he suffered in June at the Mallorca Open. He felt pain during training the week of Aug. 9 and then visited doctors.

“After some tests, they said that my wrist needs more time, so we’ve all agreed on being conservative and to give my wrist some time to recover,” he wrote.

Stan Wawrinka

The 2016 U.S. Open champ posted an Instagram video on June 21 following his second foot surgery of the year. “Same place, different day, not where I wanted to be but still a smile on my face,” the caption read. His withdrawal from the tournament was announced in early August.

Serena Williams

A six-time winner in Flushing Meadows, Williams will not compete at the U.S. Open for the first time since 2017. 

“After careful consideration and following the advice of my doctors and medical team, I have decided to withdraw from the US Open to allow my body to heal completely from a torn hamstring,” Williams wrote on Instagram on Aug. 25 . “New York is one of the most exciting cities in the world and one of my favorite places to play — I’ll miss seeing the fans but will be cheering everyone on from afar.

“Thank you for your continued support and love. I’ll see you soon.”

Williams has not played a competitive match since Wimbledon, where she retired from her first-round match after a slip and fall. Her quest to tie Margaret Court’s record (man or woman) of 24 Grand Slam titles will continue to wait. 

MORE:  Serena Williams is out  | Venus Williams is out

Venus Williams

The same day Serena announced she wouldn’t be playing, Venus announced her withdrawal. 

“Not the best news from Serena and I today,” the 2000 and 2001 champ said on Twitter. “I too am unable to play the US Open. It’s super, super, super disappointing. Having some issues with my leg all this summer and just couldn’t work through it.”

While she won’t be playing in New York, Venus will still be busy. She joked at Wimbledon during an interview with ESPN she “might be undateable” and mentioned she is now open to the idea. 

“I’m accepting applications from all bachelors above 5 foot tall. Smart, but not smarter than me. Has a job and doesn’t talk too much. My coach Eric Hechtman is taking all applications because you’ve got to contribute to the championships,” she said with a smile.