US Open Set For Green Light Despite Growing Player Discontent Over Safety Measures - UBITENNIS
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Grand Slam

US Open Set For Green Light Despite Growing Player Discontent Over Safety Measures

Grand Slam tennis will return later this year following the COVID-19 outbreak, but some top figures in the sport have already expressed their doubts about playing.

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The United States Tennis Association is pressing ahead with their plans to hold this year’s US Open despite the potential prospect of some top names skipping the event.

 

Newly appointed tournament director Stacey Allaster and other officials have been pondering three potential options concerning the New York major, which included scrapping it for the first time in history. There have been concerns expressed over the practicalities of hosting such a big event in a state that has been the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic in America. New York has reported more than 210,000 cases of the virus which has resulted in over 17,000 deaths.

“Our team has literally worked around the clock to figure out a way we can have the U.S. Open and do it in a safe way,” The New York Times quoted USTA president Patrick Galbraith as saying last Wednesday during a video call.
“Without having close social contact, we feel if one player gets it (COVID-19), it’s not going to spread. Our infectious disease specialists are confident on that. They are going to be pulled out of the environment, but you have to have close contact to get this.” He later added.

The decision to proceed with the US Open comes as no surprise with the USTA desperate to maintain some financial deals. Even if no fans can attend the tournament, the US Open still has various sponsorship and TV deals at stake. The organisation has previously made over 100 people redundant due to the current economic climate and closed its national headquarters in New York to save money. Unlike Wimbledon, the US Open would lose a substantial amount of money because they are not covered by pandemic insurance.

According to sources at ESPN and Forbes, both the ATP and WTA have already agreed for the Grand Slam to get underway at the end of August. It is understood that the delay in public confirmation is due to the USTA waiting for formal approval from local government officials.

In another development linked to the Grand slam, there is a strong chance that this year’s Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati will also be moved to New York and act as a warm-up for the US Open. A proposal that emerged a couple weeks ago. The idea of the relocation is to minimise player’s travel in the country and keep them in what is essentially being described as a ‘bubble.’

Will the top guns go?

The decision to go ahead with the US Open comes after a series of top names in the sport voiced their doubts about attending the event. Men’s world No.1 Novak Djokovic had previously described the measures as ‘extreme’ during a recent interview with Serbian TV. Expressing concern over the proposal of allowing players to bring only one member of their team to the US Open site.

“It’s something that’s pretty unthinkable at the moment. You can’t go to Manhattan, you’d have to sleep in a hotel at the airport, you’d have to pick just one person to come to the club with you. There would be no audience, there would be no media … Quite extreme conditions in which to play. I don’t know if it’s sustainable.” Djokovic commented on the situation.

Rafael Nadal, who is the reigning champion, said just over a week ago he would not travel to the event if it was taking place at present. The Spaniard has previously stated that he believes the Tour should not start again until the worldwide travel restrictions make it fair for all players regardless of where they are based.

“We need to be clear. We need to be responsible, we need to be sending strong messages and a positive example for society,” Nadal argues. “We are suffering from an unprecedented situation and my feeling is that we need to come back (to the Tour) when all players are able to travel and are safe to do so.”
“If not, I probably will still play, but my feeling would be that we (the ATP) are not being 100 percent correct. I want to see my sport being 100 percent fair and correct. Especially under the circumstances.”

There is also discontent from some members of women’s tennis with French Open champion Ash Barty recently casting doubts on her appearance in New York this year. In an email exchange with The Associated Press, Barty admitted that she has ‘concerns.’

“I have concerns too,” she stated. “I understand the tournaments are eager to run but keeping everyone safe has to be the priority.”
“I can’t wait to get back out there and play but we have to make sure it’s safe to do so first, not just for me but for my team,” Barty later added.

Two-time major champion Petra Kvitova has previously said she would rather have the US Open scrapped than face the prospect of playing behind closed doors. A view that has also been echoed by the likes of Marin Cilic and Roger Federer.

“I have my age and of course I would like to play another Grand Slam, but if it’s like this, I’d rather cancel them,” the former Wimbledon winner said last month.
“Playing a Grand Slam is the greatest thing there is and playing without fans who are our engine doesn’t look nice to me and the Grand Slam doesn’t deserve it.” She added.

A formal announcement regarding the US Open will be made later this week once the New York authorities approve their plans to host the tournament. Also set to take place over the coming days will be the ATP and WTA publishing their schedules for the remainder of the 2020 season. It is unclear if all three will make their announcements on the same day.

The US Open is set to get underway on August 31st.

Grand Slam

French Open Chief Hoping To Ease COVID-19 Related Restrictions In Coming Weeks

Former world No.4 Guy Forget says he hopes to learn from the controversy caused by the recently cancelled Adria Tour.

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The man in charge of organising this year’s French Open has said he is optimistic that there will be more flexibility in the restrictions placed upon his event as it nears its launch.

 

Guy Forget has told Reuters News Agency that he believes the clay-court major will be nowhere as strict as the US Open, which will take place a couple weeks prior. The US Open is taking place behind closed doors for the first time in history and players will be subjected to various measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Including regular temperature checks and being limited to how many members of their team they can bring with them. It comes as parts of America reports a rapid rise in cases of the virus.

However, Forget believes that the COVID-19 restrictions set to be implemented in New York will not apply to his tournament because the current situation in his country is not as bad. According to the BBC, more than 29,000 people have died from COVID-19 in France compared to an estimated 132,000 in America.

“Luckily things are a bit more flexible in Europe and in France, especially,” Forget told Reuters. “Hopefully, what we’re going to announce will probably be even more flexible than what we did.”

Despite Forget’s optimism, there is also a lot of caution given recent events that have happened in the sport. The Adria Tour, which was founded by world No.1 Novak Djokovic, was cancelled after an outbreak of the virus among players. Djokovic, Grigor Dimitrov, Viktor Troicki and Borna Coric all tested positive, as well as some coaching staff. The event was criticised for a lack of social distancing with players attending parties, however it all took place in accordance with local government rules. Meanwhile, at the DraftKings All-American Team Cup in Atalanta Frances Tiafoe withdrew due to testing positive for the virus, but the event continued.

“Maybe some people were overconfident there,” Forget commented on the Adria Tour.
“Luckily no one got hurt really bad but even a few cases is too much and we want to avoid that as much as we can.
“We want to reassure everyone that having people getting ill will be terrible for us. Let’s be really careful, really cautious.”

At present, the French Tennis Federation plans to allow up to 20,000 people to attend the French Open daily with 10,000 on the final day. Equating to roughly 60% of its maximum capacity which is a figure based on ‘health-related information and the projected guidelines.’ Those attending will be required to wear masks whilst walking around the venue but not when sitting courtside.

“We all see soccer on television, it’s wonderful but something is missing without the crowds,” Forget said about the importance of a crowd.
“We are working closely with the administration, the government, to make sure we can provide some crowd while still following very strict security measures.”

The French Open is set to get underway on September 27th. Ash Barty and Rafael Nadal are the defending champions.

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Grand Slam

Australian Open Chief Confident Event Will Take Place In January Amid COVID-19 Jump In Region

Craig Tiley has addressed concerns about the Grand Slam following a new outbreak in Victoria.

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The tournament director of the Australian Open has insisted that plans for next year’s tournament are on track despite a spike in COVID-19 cases around Melbourne.

 

Craig Tiley has stated that the Grand Slam will only take place in the city and there are no backup plans to potentially relocate the event in a worst case scenario. The Australian Open is held annually at Melbourne Park and this year attracted a record attendance of 812,174 people. Although there are concerns about the threat posed by COVID-19 with the Victoria State Government reporting another 66 cases of the virus on Friday. Making it the 17th day the daily infection rate has been in double digits. It is possible that the number could be higher with health minister Jenny Mikakos confirming around 10,000 people have refused to be tested with some claiming the virus to be a ‘conspiracy theory.’

According to ABC News Tiley and his team are planning for six scenarios concerning the Australian Open taking place, including the possibility of holding it behind closed doors. Although he is optimistic that the event and others also set to take place next January will go ahead as planned.

“Nothing has changed for us in terms of our planning,” Tiley told AAP.
“The environment around us has changed, and will continue to change, as we’ve seen with the current spike in Victoria.
“We’re optimistic the additional measures currently in place will be successful — and restrictions will continue to be eased over the coming months.”

The Tournament director has also confirmed that there will be little flexibility concerning the staging of next year’s event. Saying it will only take place in Melbourne and during January if it goes ahead. Although he is keeping a close eye on the two Grand Slams that are set to take place later this season.

“The US Open and the French Open are exploring mandatory testing, varying levels of quarantine and limiting entourages,” he said.
“Of course we are looking at all these options, and more, as part of our scenario planning.
“It’s difficult to predict exactly what will need to be in place as guidelines and protocols are changing week by week, and sometimes even day by day.”

This year’s US Open is set to get underway on August 31st, but will be held behind closed doors for the first time. Meanwhile the French Open, which starts only weeks after the New York major, plans to allow up to 20,000 fans to attend daily. Working out to be roughly 60% of its maximum capacity.

The last time the Australian Open didn’t take place was in 1986 due to a change in its hosting date from December to January. Founded in 1905, it is the youngest out of the four grand slam tournaments.

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Grand Slam

Patrick Mouratoglou Cast Doubt On US Open Taking Place As Covid-19 Cases Soar

One top health expert has warned American lawmakers that the country could reach 100,000 cases of the virus per day.

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The coach of Serena Williams has said he is unsure ‘if it is a good move’ for the US Open to go ahead amid the ongoing COVID-19 crises.

 

Patrick Mouratoglou told Sky Sports that he believes it is ‘a bit crazy’ for the event to be going ahead as planned. This year’s Grand Slam in New York is taking place behind closed doors for the first time in history and will be implementing strict measures to deal with the threat of COVID-19. Including regular testing and temperature checks. Players will also be kept essentially in a ‘bubble’ throughout and limited to where they can go. All tennis tournaments have been suspended since March due to the Pandemic but the Tour is set to resume in August.

”With what’s happening at the moment in the US, with the number of cases of COVID-19 going higher and higher every day, I don’t think how that can happen,” Mouratoglou told Sky Sports.
“From outside, it looks a bit crazy to try to make it happen. So, I don’t know if it’s a good move.
“I wouldn’t say that if the situation was more stable like it is in Europe, then it’s a different story. But in the US and especially in New York and around New York is… I mean, the number of cases is increasing incredibly. So, I don’t know how reasonable that is to try to make it happen. And I don’t know if last minute the governor of New York will decide to cancel it because of course health first.”

Recently Dr Anthony Fauci, who is a top disease expert, told the United States Senate that he would not be surprised if the country soars to 100,000 cases of the Coronavirus each day. His warning comes as Reuters News Agency reports that there was a rise of more than 47,000 cases on Tuesday. The biggest jump in daily cases since the pandemic started.

As a result of the rise, New York has said that people travelling from 16 different states in America are now required to self-quarantine for 14 days if they visit the city. According to USA Today this ruling applies to roughly 48% of the entire American population. Due to the uncertain situation, Mouratoglou believes it is still possible the US Open could get cancelled nearer the time.

“I think it’s completely possible that two weeks before he [Andrew Cuomo] decides I mean, considering the situation, this is not reasonable to bring people from all over the world there, mix them together and potentially put them in touch with one of the countries that has the most cases at the moment.” He said.

Some players are yet to clarify their plans for the Grand Slam and if they will be playing. Rafael Nadal, Petra Kvitova and Simona Halep are some of those who have previously expressed their concerns. However, former champion and world No.1 Andy Murray says is it a ‘positive’ move for the event to be going ahead as well as the French Open which will follow shortly after.

“Getting the US Open and the French Open played this year is a good thing, I think. It’s positive, I just don’t like the way the French Open went about scheduling their event,” Murray told the BBC. “But we’re going to have to go back to playing at some stage. The most important thing is that the events are safe.”

The US Open is set to get underway on August 31st.

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