US Open 2020 to be held on scheduled dates without fans after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo gives go ahead

Even with the go-ahead from the state, one significant question remains for the US Open: Which players actually will participate?

The Associated Press June 16, 2020 23:38:39 IST
US Open 2020 to be held on scheduled dates without fans after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo gives go ahead

New York: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Tuesday the US Open tennis tournament will held on its scheduled dates starting in late August as part of the state's reopening from shutdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

US Open 2020 to be held on scheduled dates without fans after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo gives go ahead

Bianca Andreescu poses with the trophy at New York's Rockefeller Center after winning the US Open in 2019. AP Photo

The US Tennis Association had decided to go forward with its marquee event in New York City without spectators, pending an OK from the state.

“We’re excited about the US Open, (which) is going to be held in Queens, 31 August through 13 September. It will be held without fans, but you can watch it on TV — and I’ll take that,” Cuomo said at his daily briefing in Albany. “The tennis authorities are going to be taking extraordinary precautions, but that’s going to take place.”

Like many sports leagues, the professional tennis tours have been suspended since March because of the COVID-19 outbreak, wiping out more than 40 events around the globe.

The US Open normally is each season’s fourth and final Grand Slam tournament but would be the second of 2020, following the Australian Open, which concluded in early February.

The French Open was postponed from May and currently is scheduled to start a week after the US Open ends. Wimbledon was cancelled altogether for the first time since World War II in 1945.

Even with the go-ahead from the state, one significant question remains for the US Open: Which players actually will participate?

Such top names as both No 1-ranked players, Novak Djokovic and Ash Barty, and defending men’s champion Rafael Nadal, have expressed reservations about heading to Flushing Meadows, where an indoor tennis facility was used as a temporary home for hundreds of hospital beds at the height of the city’s coronavirus crisis.

Already ruled out, regardless: Roger Federer, who has won five of his men’s-record 20 Grand Slam singles titles at the US Open but announced recently that he is out for the rest of the year after needing a second arthroscopic surgery on his right knee.

With international TV contracts — including an annual average of $70 million from ESPN alone — helping offset the loss of money from ticket sales and other onsite revenue, and facing a recession that already led to the recent elimination of more than 100 jobs at the USTA, the association’s board decided to go forward with its marquee event despite concerns about COVID-19 and international travel.

Cuomo opened Tuesday's news conference by touting “good news on the numbers, good news on the facts” in New York, which he said now has the lowest number of coronavirus-related hospitalisations since the outbreak began.

The USTA plan shared with his government includes limited player entourages; assigned hotels; increased cleaning at the tournament grounds; extra locker room space; daily temperature checks and occasional testing for COVID-19.

There would be no qualifying for singles and likely reduced fields for doubles. Players whose rankings would have put them in qualifying rounds that allow some men and women access to the 128-player singles draws will be compensated with funds the USTA will pass along to the ATP and WTA tours to distribute.

Also part of the proposal shared with players: The Cincinnati hard-court tournament scheduled for 16-23 August — the USTA is its majority owner — would be moved to New York and held in place of US Open qualifying.

Last week, Djokovic said the restrictions that would be in place for the US Open in New York because of the virus would be “extreme.”

“Most of the players I have talked to were quite negative on whether they would go there,” Djokovic said.

He hosted exhibition matches with packed stands last week in his home country of Serbia, where the government lifted most virus restrictions last month.

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