June 26, 2020
US Tennis Hopes Fans Tune In
This fall, millions of sports fans expect that their favorite pro athletes will be back in action, in some form or another, as all major US sports leagues have announced some working plans for reopening their next seasons, or in some cases, restarting their season already in progress. NASCAR is already racing, the NBA is working on a playoff plan, as is the NHL; and the NFL plans to begin the regular season with fans in the stands, though that’s subject to potential change.
But what about other, smaller-venue sports? Questions about one of these was recently answered when the US Open tennis tournament announced it would be held in New York in late August, and that matches would not be played in front of fans. Speaking about his decision to allow the tournament, sans fans, Governor Andrew Cuomo said, “You can watch on TV, and I’ll take that…”
The proposal accepted by Cuomo included very specific restrictions on hotel accommodations, transportation, and the number of people who could or would travel with players. And, speaking of players, one of the most important questions remains somewhat unclear: Who will actually compete in this year’s tournament?
According to media reports, some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, have expressed “concerns” about playing in New York. The state has been in the news a lot, constantly being referred to as a “hotbed” or a “hot spot” for the COVID-19 outbreak.
Despite this, many potential competitors are eager to get back out on the court, and say they are looking forward to the opportunity to play in the Open. These included top-25 men’s player, John Isner, who tweeted: “Well done USTA for being so forward-thinking (and) getting this done… A great achievement. Players and fans are thrilled with this development… Time to get back on the courts!”
Of course, not all players are happy with the way this tournament is being organized. Typically, the US Open would be preceded by qualifying rounds that allow lower-ranked, but still internationally-ranked, players to earn some extra cash and try to increase their profile in the sport. Qualifiers have been scrapped this year, and that has some players crying foul.
But, even with these criticisms, USTA officials say they are happy tennis is happening at all, especially after more than 40 tournaments have already been canceled. They say they are focused on providing a good entertainment value while also protecting the top names in the sport.
USTA CEO Mike Dowse told the media: “We recognize the tremendous responsibility of hosting one of the first global sporting events in these challenging times… We will do so in the safest manner possible, mitigating all potential risks… We can showcase tennis as a social distancing sport.”