If Rafael Nadal doesn't play in the 2014 U.S. Open, the eventual winner's victory will all but have an asterisk next to it.
The wrist injury that forced Nadal to skip the Rogers Cup in Toronto and the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati might keep him out of the U.S. Open as well, per Kelyn Soong of The Washington Post.
In 2013, Nadal won all three of the aforementioned tournaments.
Per Shannon Russell of the Cincinnati Enquirer, Nadal broke the news about his absence from Toronto and Cincinnati.
Unfortunately I injured my right wrist yesterday during practice and after the tests I have undergone today in Spain, including an MRI, and checking with my doctors, I will have to stay out of competition for at least two to three weeks. I am sorry and wish the best to the tournament and thank all of the fans for their support.
Instead of risking further injury, Nadal chose to sit out the two major tuneup tournaments for the U.S. Open. In 2013, he won both events before winning the U.S. Open for the second time in his career.
Obviously, Nadal is one year older, and as he ages, he may wind up being a little more selective about the tournaments he plays in. The Rogers Cup and Western and Southern Open are both major events on the tennis schedule, so those probably won't be regularly omitted from Rafa's routine, but others could be.
As for right now, all the focus is on whether he can play in Flushing, New York.
Whether it be Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Andy Murray or someone else who wins with Nadal potentially absent from the bracket, many people will wonder if the winner would have beaten Nadal if he were there.
Joe Singh of the Huffington Post doesn't like the "asterisk" talk. He writes:
Across sports, there's a tendency to put asterisks on certain events. Things like "this wouldn't have happened if so-and-so was healthy" or "he benefited from this event or this upset" or simply "he was lucky." It's worse in some sports than others, but the overarching idea is always the same: it's how we impose reason on chaos. It's how we spend entire seasons or fortnights believing something, and then rationalize being so very wrong.
Is that fair? Absolutely not, but that's the sports world. While it's not quite as bad as winning the French Open if Nadal were on the shelf, the 28-year-old Spaniard's potential absence would still be a significant blow to the field.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga pulled off wins over Djokovic, Federer and Murray to capture the Rogers Cup title, but you best believe there are doubts as to whether he would have beaten Nadal.
Djokovic and Stanislas Wawrinka have already advanced to the round of 16 at the Western and Southern Open, but if either prevails, the Rafa question could be asked there as well.
Nadal is charismatic and one of the biggest draws in the sport. Yet even beyond his international celebrity status, he is the defending U.S. Open champion and currently ranked No. 2 in the world. Any player with that profile carries weight in a Grand Slam.
Fans are hoping Nadal is healthy enough to perform for obvious reasons, but one of Rafa's primary sponsors would magically heal his wrist if it could.
Nike already released the gear Nadal will wear, if he's able to give it a go.
The company would much rather have him rocking it on the court as opposed to having media outlets just tweet images of the outfit.
While no one would obviously give back the Tiffany-made U.S. Open trophy simply because Nadal wasn't around to contend for it, rivals like Djokovic, Federer and Murray would probably prefer to go through their rival than around him.