MUMBAI — Marin Cilic thinks winning the US Open in front of empty stands at Arthur Ashe Stadium would be forever remembered as a Grand Slam triumph with a very big asterisk, the former champion told Reuters.

The tennis season came to a halt in March due to the coronavirus pandemic and the shutdown will continue at least until the end of July with many countries in lockdown and air travel bans in place.

The US Open is scheduled to take place from Aug. 31 and organizers are looking at a wide range of scenarios to get the show on, including keeping fans out.

Cilic, who held the silver trophy aloft at Flushing Meadows in 2014 in the biggest achievement of his career, felt a crowd-free environment would devalue the accomplishment.

“I just feel that it’s going to more or less feel like practice matches,” the former world number three said in an interview from Croatia.

“It’s always going to be … in the years to come, ‘oh, you know that guy won a US Open in 2020 without fans.’ I don’t think it’s going to have that weight…

“It wouldn’t be the best scenario.”

Cilic thinks the international travel required to get professional tennis up and running again means the issue might end up being academic in any case.

“Tennis season is slightly different than football, than basketball,” he added.

“They have seasons to finish off, and the next season is depending on this season as well. For tennis, if we start in December or in January, it’s not going to change too much.

“I believe that there won’t be any tournaments without fans.

“Basically the whole tour is revolving a lot on sponsors and people coming to the tournaments. Sponsors are investing money because people are coming to watch tennis and see the players.”

While many players have been left with a lot of spare time and an empty schedule during the shutdown, the break has proved timely for Cilic, who became a parent for the first time in January. — Reuters