Wednesday, June 17, 2020

U.S. Open to be held as scheduled; tours will resume

Arthur Ashe Stadium will be eerie without fans. File photo by Paul Bauman
   The U.S. Open will be held Aug. 31-Sept. 13 as scheduled but without fans, organizers confirmed today.
   Also, the men's and women's pro tours plan to resume in August with modified schedules, subject to approval by governments and health organizations, after a five-month hiatus.
   The tours were suspended the night before the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, Calif., was scheduled to begin on March 9 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
   The Western & Southern Open will move from Cincinnati to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., the site of the U.S. Open, and will be held the preceding week.
   The United States has 119,935 deaths from COVID-19, more than 2.5 times the number of any other country, according to Worldometer. Meanwhile, New York has 30,939 deaths, almost 2.5 times the number of any other state, according to CNN.
   The U.S. Open brings in more than $400 million annually, more than 80% of the USTA's revenue, according to CNBC. ESPN pays the USTA more than $70 million annually to televise the tournament in the United States.
   Rafael Nadal, who won his fourth U.S. Open title last year, told The New York Times in a June 4 story that, as of then, he would not play in the tournament because of the health risk.
   Outspoken Australian Nick Kyrgios said the USTA was "selfish" to hold the U.S. Open.
   "I'll get my hazmat suit ready for when I travel from Australia and then have to quarantine for 2 weeks on my return," he tweeted Monday.
   In addition to excluding fans, the USTA plans to limit the number of support staff that players may take to New York, possibly only one team member each, The Times reported. Top players typically travel with large entourages including family members, a coach, trainer and physical therapist.
   Top-ranked Novak Djokovic, who has won three U.S. Open titles, has criticized the restrictions as "extreme."
   Roger Federer, a five-time U.S. Open champion, will miss the rest of the year after recently having arthroscopic surgery on his right knee for the second time in 2020.
   Several top women, including No. 1 Ashleigh Barty of Australia and No. 2 Simona Halep of Romania, expressed reservations about playing in the U.S. Open.
   "Not only because we're in the middle of a global pandemic," Halep told The Times. "But also because of the risk of travel, potential quarantine and then the changes around the tournament."
   However, Serena Williams plans to renew her quest for a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title in the U.S. Open.
   "I really cannot wait to return to New York and play the U.S. Open in 2020," Williams, a six-time U.S. Open champion, said in a video message on usopen.org. "I feel like the USTA is going to do a really good job of ensuring that everything is amazing, perfect, and that everyone is safe. It's going to be exciting. It's been over six months since a lot of us have played professional tennis."
   Williams has lost her last four Grand Slam finals, including the 2018 U.S. Open debacle in which she clashed with chair umpire Carlos Ramos and received three code violations.
   The women's tour is set to resume Aug. 3 in Palermo, Italy.
   "It is currently anticipated that tournaments will be held without fans and each tournament will have a limited footprint, with players and essential personnel only," the WTA said in a news release. "WTA tournaments will be available for viewing on broadcast."
   The Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic at San Jose State, which had been scheduled for Aug. 3-9, is not on the new schedule.
   The men plan to return Aug. 17 in Washington, D.C.
   "All events will be held under strict guidelines related to health and safety, social distancing and reduced or no fans on-site," according to an ATP Tour news release.
   However, Australian John Millman tweeted: "Why are we going into a bubble for Cinci/US when we have a lead in tournament in Washington DC? We may as well have played Cinci in Cinci if we are no longer doing the bubble isolation tennis thing."
   After the U.S. Open, the men and women are scheduled to play in Madrid (Sept. 14-20) and Rome (Sept. 21-27) before the French Open (Sept. 27-Oct. 11).
   The women then will compete in Asia through November. The men's schedule after the French Open is scheduled to be released in mid-July.
   The ATP Challenger Tour and ITF World Tennis Tours will resume the week of Aug. 17.

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