Croatian tennis star Marin Čilić says that winning the U.S. Open in front of empty stands would be forever remembered as a Grand Slam triumph with a very big asterisk, the former champion told Reuters.
The tennis season, like nearly all professional sports around the world, came to a halt in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. Experts believe the shutdown will continue at least until the end of July with travel bans still in place in some countries.
The U.S. Open is scheduled to begin on August 31 and organisers are looking at a wide range of scenarios to ensure the tournament takes place as planned, including keeping fans out.
Čilić won the U.S. Open in 2014 and it remains the biggest triumph of his professional career. He said that winning a tournament of such prestige without fans would somehow devalue the accomplishment.
"I just feel that it's going to more or less feel like practice matches," the former world number-three told Reuters, adding that the winner would carry the stigma of winning under less-than-ideal circumstances.
Čilić also thinks that professional tennis would not be impacted too much if the start of the season was delayed until December or January. He added that tennis was different than football and basketball because their seasons were interrupted more than half way through, meaning there are games to make up before a champion can be crowned.
And finally, he said he found a silver lining to the situation. The layoff has allowed him to spend more time with his wife and young son.
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