US Open to go ahead

NEW YORK (AFP) – The US Open tennis tournament is to go ahead as planned pending formal government approval, the New York Times reported on Monday.

The Times cited four tennis officials speaking on condition of anonymity as saying that the Grand Slam event would take place in its usual late August-September slot.

The status of the tournament has been mired in uncertainty for weeks as New York battles the coronavirus, while a number of top players have expressed doubts about playing in the tournament.

The Times report said the tournament would take place at Flushing Meadows without fans from August 31 to September 13 after receiving support from ATP and WTA.

The US Tennis Association (USTA) is expected to announce the decision later this week, the Times reported.

File photo shows a general view of Arthur Ashe Stadium during the men’s singles semi-final match of the 2019 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. PHOTO: AFP

Forbes magazine also reported that the Open would take place as scheduled, with a decision expected “soon”.

The proposed plans for the tournament had been met with widespread reservations amongst leading players in international tennis, with world number one Novak Djokovic the most outspoken critic.

Under proposed safety protocols, US Open players would be confined to a hotel outside of Manhattan and would only be allowed to bring one member of their entourage to the event.

Singles qualifying would be eliminated while the doubles tournaments would be reduced from 64 pairings to just 24.

“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 last week.

“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.”

Djokovic, however, 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’s misgivings were shared by defending men’s singles champion Rafael Nadal, who would be chasing a 20th Grand Slam title at Flushing.

Nadal, the world number two, said earlier this month that he would not play in New York if the tournament was taking place now.

The 34-year-old said tennis should not resume until it is “completely safe” for all competitors.