The U.S. Open suffered because Rafael Nadal wasn't a part of it—that much is a fact.
There wasn't as much excitement, or drama, or fun without him there. It was nice to see Andy Murray finally win his first grand slam—and who knows whether that would've happened if Nadal hadn't been unable to go? But any time one of the sport's top talents is out of commission for one of the sport's premiere events, the sport suffers.
Tennis suffered without Nadal this September. Imagine what it's going to be like if he misses the 2013 Australian Open, too.
On Tuesday, the Associated Press via SI.com revealed that Nadal still has no set timetable for his return from a knee injury, adding that it is far from a certainty that he'll play in the Australian Open next January.
In addition to the Australian Open, there is a possibility that he could miss the ATP World Tour Finals and the Davis Cup final, both of which are to be held in November—but there was already a distinct possibility he'd miss those.
What we didn't expect was that he wouldn't return for the beginning of 2013. And if that's the case, it would be a huge blow to tennis.
Nadal told the AP this week:
All that is in my mind is to keep working hard to come back. I cannot think about the future because it's not like if you break your arm and you know you will have a few weeks like this, then a few weeks like that and then you are back. … This is a day-by-day thing. I have checks every day to see how I'm improving. I can't predict what will happen.
Clearly, Nadal shouldn't rush back. If he does that, all that will happen is that the knee injury that's kept him off the courts since the second round at Wimbledon will continue to recur. It will continue to keep him out of tennis' biggest events, just like it did for this summer's Olympics and for the U.S. Open.
But there is a big hole without him. That much was clear this September. The winners' victories mean less when they don't have to go through the toughest competition in order to obtain them. Even Nadal's toughest competition has acknowledged the fact that it just isn't as much fun to play without him.
Earlier this month, Roger Federer told China Daily that not having Nadal around is disappointing. According to The Star, John Isner wanted to face Nadal in the Davis Cup because then, a victory would really mean something.
There are always new faces and new stars emerging in the world of tennis. Perhaps Murray is becoming one of the biggest ones. But even as he steps in as a replacement, playing on without Nadal hurts. It negatively impacts the competition, and it negatively impacts the fans.
Here's hoping that the Australian Open won't suffer the same loss as the U.S. Open did in 2012.