For Nadal fans, it's not the same Open without him
Spectators at last week's qualifying rounds in Flushing, Queens, said the tournament won't be the same without its 2010 champion and 2011 runner-up, who is suffering from tendinitis in his left knee.
"He brings excitement to the game," she said. "We still have [Roger] Federer and [Novak] Djokovic and [Andy] Murray, but Rafael Nadal brings a charisma and style to the game that New York loves."
Nadal, 26, a Spanish native and 11-time Grand Slam winner known for his aggressive style of play, also missed the Olympics this summer and has withdrawn from the entire hard-court season to recover. He is expected to return to competition next year.
Federer said he'll miss Nadal's challenge.
"It's been a brutal process for him, I'm sure, missing the Olympics, which I'm sure was also a big goal for him. . . . I mean, this is significant, but it's not been six months yet. So I think it's not the end of the world, but it's obviously much better if he were to be here."
Fans of other players said the stakes might be lower at a Nadal-less U.S. Open, where tournament play began Monday.
"It's going to be less competitive, but health is most important," said Melica Ilic, 56, of Queens, who described herself as a Djokovic supporter who is "anti-Federer."
Ilic spoke in front of a Nike poster of Nadal pumping his fist in celebration of a good play.
She urged Nadal to take his time and rest, because, otherwise, "It's going to be terrible for tennis if his career is over."
Nadal's absence is a bonus to Kelly Choug, who backs Argentine player Juan Martin del Potro, as well as Federer and Djokovic.
"The other people have a better chance to win," said Choug, 54, of Allentown, Pa. "He would have creamed them, or at least made it tougher for them."
Some female tennis fans, though attending the Open for the game of tennis itself, admired the male players' style in addition to their substance.
Asked if she would miss Nadal's good looks at the Open, Kaplan answered without pause, "Of course!"
With Nicholas Spangler