The US Open tennis Grand Slam is on and a formal announcement is expected this week according to Forbes. The United States Tennis Association (USTA) has decided to conduct the event in New York itself but in all likelihood no crowds or media will be allowed during the matches. Many star players including World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and various others at different times have expressed concerns about participating in this year’s edition due to the Covid19 pandemic and the restrictions envisaged by the US Open organizers.
With New York the hardest-hit city by the US coronavirus crisis, the USTA according to the report has settled on staging the event in New York inside a protective “bubble”, possibly without fans. The top tennis players are reluctant to be part of this ‘bio bubble’.
“This is the world we are living in,” USTA’s director of player relations Eric Butorac told ATP and WTA players during a conference call.
“We believe this is a good plan and believe it is good for the sport. It’s good for the tennis economy, creates jobs for you, for coaches, for commentators, for so many people. And most importantly, this plan keeps you safe.”
So far, however, those words of reassurance have failed to quell unease amongst some of the international tennis circuit’s biggest names. World number one Novak Djokovic said the proposed safety measures and restrictions on the numbers of support staff were problematical.
“We would not have access to Manhattan, we would have to sleep in hotels at the airport, to be tested twice or three times per week,” Djokovic said. “Also, we could bring one person to the club, which is really impossible. I mean, you need your coach, then a fitness trainer, then a physiotherapist.”
Djokovic said most players he had spoken to had “a rather negative view” about playing in New York, and predicted some would instead switch to the delayed clay court season.
Djokovic’s misgivings were shared by defending men’s singles champion Rafael Nadal, who would be chasing a 20th Grand Slam title at Flushing. Nadal said tennis should not resume until it is “completely safe” for all competitors.
Australia’s Nick Kyrgios, meanwhile, accused the ATP Tour of riding roughshod over player concerns. “The ATP is trying to make the US Open go ahead. Selfish with everything going on at the moment,” Kyrgios wrote on Twitter.
US Open Tennis – Why the revenues matter ?
According to Times, the U.S.T.A. reported just over $380 million in U.S. Open revenue in 2018 and paid out $53 million in player compensation, which amounts to about 14 percent of the total.
“The USTA obviously don’t have the luxury of what Wimbledon had, which was pandemic insurance,” ESPN’s Rennae Stubbs said. “So they are going to lose a tremendous amount of money if they don’t put the U.S. Open on. That’s clearly a driving force for them.”