There is a narrative in the tennis world about withdrawals and injuries. It is related to Grand Slam tournaments and tells:
There are more withdrawals at the last minute, walkovers, and injuries at the US Open than early in the season.
I often heard it and read it on tennis forums when discussing schedule changes (like now with French Open moving a week later in the calendar). Frankly, I thought it was true as September’s fatigue level has to be higher than in January or May.
However, I decided to do a little research to be sure.
Are there more injuries at the US Open than at other Grand Slams?
What did I do? “Method and sources” I used.
I went through entry lists, and results of all Grand Slams Singles matches in the last three years (2018, 2019, 2020, and Australian Open 2021). I counted how many players withdrew from the tournament before the start and how many players did not finish or walk over from the matches in the first three rounds.
Entry list withdrawals:
I used entry lists as published at the TennisTeen site (that I often use) and counted players who applied to enter the tournament but then withdraws before the start. It means the player was accepted to play but withdraws before the draw date.
This method did not count with players who have long-term injuries and did not apply for start at the Grand Slam.
Injuries and walkovers in the early stages of the tournaments
I went through all matches played in rounds one, two, and three and counted matches that either did not finish due to injury or were not played at all and were won by walk-over.
Note: US Open 2020, French Open 2020, and Australian Open 2021 were played in unusual circumstances. The traveling was limited, so many players (e.g., players from Australia could not come to the USA or France and vice versa). All three tournaments were played in the “bubble” mode, and the need for frequent testing and quarantine led to many pre-tournament withdrawals. The exact schedule for the 2020 corona-impacted season is here.
And the final answer is …
I am aware of the short period I researched and the limitations of my unscientific “method.” The unusual conditions at the last three Grand Slams impact the results too.
However, I think the narrative about more injuries and walkovers at the US Open is false.
Yes, we saw some high numbers of injuries at the US Open 2018, but that could be a coincidence. I do not see a substantial difference between the number of players not finishing their games during the French Open, Australian Open, Wimbledon, or US Open.
Maybe the numbers are a bit higher for men at US Open, but I still consider it just a minor difference.
Ladies’ rate of injuries during the first rounds of Grand Slams is almost omissible.
Maybe someone in the comments section proves how wrong my perception is, but till then, I will stick with the numbers I put above.
That does not mean that players are as fresh in September as in January, but all players are doing everything they can to play at Grand Slams. The media attention, prize money, and points are worth it.