New York: Rafael Nadal casts a long shadow at Flushing Meadows, even though the Spaniard won`t be defending his title when the US Open begins on Monday.
Although the oft-injured Nadal is now sidelined by a troublesome right wrist, current world number one Novak Djokovic has no doubt the 14-time Grand Slam champion will be back with a vengeance, just as he has been before.
Djokovic thinks Nadal`s go-for-broke game takes an inevitable physical toll.
"He slides a lot and spends a lot of energy on each shot. His joints, his body suffers a lot, and it`s not easy," Djokovic said.
"But again, he has found a way always to come back," added Djokovic, pointing do Nadal`s stunning 2013 season in which he returned from a seven-month absence to win 10 titles in a career-high 14 finals and finish world number one for third time.
"So I expect no less," Djokovic said. "When he comes back to the tour than to see him strong, to see him motivated.
"He`s a great competitor, a great fighter. I`m sure that if he had a small percentage of coming here and playing he would do that, because he just loves the game. I have a lot of respect for him."
Roger Federer, seeded second behind Djokovic in his quest for a record sixth US Open title, admits that Nadal`s absence opens up the men`s singles draw.
Overall, however, it`s a loss for the game.
"It`s not necessarily dependent, an event like this, on the one player, but it`s more exciting with him," Federer said.
"For us, the players, I mean, we hope he gets well and he feels better quickly and all these things and he`s back on tour soon.
"But at the same time, I think what stands out is the opportunity to try to take advantage of the fact that he`s not here. It`s one less really difficult player to beat maybe."