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

Grand Slam

Foreign Visitors To 2021 Australian Open Unlikely, Says Tennis Australia

The latest plans for Melbourne Park have been discussed by tournament director Craig Tiley.

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The organisers of the Australian Open have revealed details of their plans for next year’s event with the wide expectation being a substantial cut in visitors to Melbourne Park.

 

Tournament director Craig Tiley has shed light on the event amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has brought the sport to a standstill since March 9th. Under the current plan officials are expecting half the amount of visitors to be allowed to attend the main show court, which has a capacity of more than 14,000. Exact details on numbers could vary in the coming months depending on the COVID-19 case levels. Furthermore, it is doubtful that foreign visitors will be allowed to attend the event. Last year, more than 100,000 people visited the tournament from outside of Australia.

“We made that decision this week, to go with that scenario from a number of options,” Tiley told The Associated Press.
“We will not hit the numbers we had last year, a record 821,000 through the gates. Our fans will be from Melbourne and Victoria state, interstate, as well as potentially New Zealanders, if they lift border restrictions. But the 15% we get from overseas will likely not be here.”

Victoria, which is the state the Australian Open is held in, reported 10 deaths related to COVID-19 on Sunday in what is their highest daily toll to date. Overall, there are 459 new infections in what is the 21st consecutive day the figures have been increased in three digits, according to data published by The Guardian. Greater Melbourne, which has a population of roughly five million people, is currently in a lockdown

Despite the concerns Tiley had previously stated that he has no intention of relocating the Grand Slam to another part of the country. Instead, he is hoping to learn lessons from both the US Open and French Open, which will get underway later this year. In New York, their event will be held behind closed doors for the first time in history with players being placed under restrictions such as where they can stay and go to.

“They are both exploring mandatory testing, varying levels of quarantine and limited entourages,” he said. “Of course we are looking at all these options, and more, as part of our scenario planning.”
“If conditions improve and the US Open and French Open goes well and they have positive events, it will build the confidence of the players and help us here in Melbourne next year.”

The Australian Open is set to get underway on January 18th next year. Novak Djokovic and Sofia Kenin are the reigning champions.

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US Open Not Giving Up On Staging Tournament, For Now

A key lead up tournament has been axed and the USTA faces a 80% drop in their net operating income, but optimism over North America only Grand Slam remains.

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Officials have insisted that the US Open will be held in safe conditions and is currently not in danger of being cancelled despite the American hard court series suffering a significant blow on Tuesday.

 

The United States Tennis Association has insisted that the New York major will create a ‘safe and controlled environment’ for players. Their assurance comes after the Citi Open in Washington was cancelled due to concerns over travel and a recent trend in COVID-19 outbreaks. America is currently dealing with a rise of cases across the country. According to the New York Times, as of July 21st the seven-day average of new daily cases is 66,406.

Washington was set to be the to be the tournament that would have kick-started the ATP Tour, which has been halted since March 9th. Instead, the Tour is now set to get underway with the Western and Southern Open, which has been moved to the same location as the US Open this year due to the pandemic. In a statement from the USTA, they insist that plans for those two tournaments are still on track.

“The USTA will create a safe and controlled environment for players and everyone else involved in both tournaments that mitigates health risks,” the statement reads.
“We constantly base our decisions regarding hosting these tournaments on our three guiding principles that include safe and healthy of all involved, whether hosting these events are in the best interest in the sport of tennis and whether this decision is financially viable.
“We are confident we remain in-line with all three guiding principles.”

This year’s US Open is set to take a huge financial hit with no fans being allowed to visit the tournament for the first time in its history. Mike Dowse, who is the head of the USTA, has previously said that the net operating income ‘looks’ to be down approximately 80% on the previous year. Nevertheless, they are still committing 91% of their prize money from 2019.

Despite the prospect of losing money, the prospect of not hosting the tournament all together would have even more of a significant financial impact. This is because the USTA is relying on broadcasting deals with TV networks around the world that are worth millions.

“Keep in mind, we have 850,000 fans who attend, but we’ve got hundreds of millions of fans who still watch the Open around the world and will never step foot on the grounds. … We had to adjust ourselves and I think the times have adjusted as well,” USTA chief revenue officer Lew Sherr told Sports Business Daily back in May.

Whilst the USTA is optimistic, the telling factor will be how many top names will play at the US Open this year given the current travel restrictions. The American government has already said players will be exempt from quarantine when entering the country, but the problem lies with what happens when they leave. According to one report from Opencourt, only four top 10 players on the WTA Tour have entered to play in Cincinnati and the US Open so far. They are Karolina Pliskova, Sofia Kenin, Belinda Bencic and Serena Williams. Although the entry deadline is next Monday. It is unclear as to how many top 10 players on the men’s tour have committed.

Amid the uncertainty, Citi Open tournament director Mark Ein believes there could be a silver lining to his event being scrapped. Saying he hopes the latest development will trigger a more rapid response over efforts to clarify the player quarantine rules. Spanish newspaper Marca has reported that the ATP are currently in talks with the country’s National Sports Council (Consejo Superior de Deportes) over their rules regarding players travelling from America.

“I do think the European events are definitely going to happen, and I think the U.S. Open has a really good chance to happen,” Ein told the New York Times. “I think our cancellation could accelerate the resolution of those immigration issues. I think that’s going to make it a focus. You can’t figure these things out the week before the event.”

The US Open is set to start on August 31st.

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Top Names In Doubt For Rest Of 2020 Season, Says Australian Open Chief

Craig Tiley has suggested that some players will soon end their 2020 campaigns and instead switch their focus to next year.

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The head of the Australian Open has said he believes some stars of the sport will choose to skip the two upcoming Grand Slam events and instead switch their focus to the 2021 season.

 

Craig Tiley said during an interview with The Age newspaper that he has spoken to various players who are looking to next year as ‘the new hope’ for the sport. The ATP and WTA Tour’s are set to restart in August after a five-month break due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the break, tennis’ governing bodies have been forced to adjust their schedules with some of those tournaments that have been confirmed still in doubt.

Amid the uncertainty, Tiley has claimed that some may travel to Australia as early as November in order to prepare for the start of next year. Out of the top 20 players on the men’s and women’s Tour’s, Roger Federer is the only one to have ruled himself out of playing again this year. Although his reason is due to recovering from knee surgery.

“Most of them – Roger Federer included – is not playing the rest of the year and is looking to the Australian Open to launch 2021,” Tiley told The Age.
“In fact all of them I’ve spoken to – there’s not one that hasn’t – are looking to the beginning of 2021 and the beginning of the new season as the new hope for tennis globally.
“I personally think that some of the top players will be in doubt [for the rest of 2020] and that’s simply because they may feel it’s too soon. It’s nothing against the US Open.”

The claim comes amid speculation surrounding the upcoming US events that are set to take place next month. This week it has emerged that the Citi Open in Washington could be axed due to the ongoing travel restrictions. Should that happen, it may have a domino effect on other events including the premier US Open. Furthermore, there are also doubts surrounding China and if they will hold any international sporting events that are not related to Olympic qualifying. Something that has been recommended by an official government report.

Various players have already voiced their reservations about travelling to America and risking the possibility of having to be quarantined during the process. Something that would affect their preparations for the European clay-court swing. Both Petra Kvitova and Simona Halep have said they are undecided. Meanwhile, Elina Svitolina recently told btu.org.ua her current plan is to return to competitive tennis after the US Open.

Australian Open fears

There are also questions about the Australian Open that will take place in January. Melbourne, which is where the tournament is played, recently introduced a compulsory mask policy to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The city has been placed under local lockdown for a second time.

Melbourne is the state capital of Victoria where there are currently 3147 active COVID-19 cases as of July 21st, according to figures published by 9 News. It has been suggested that should the situation not improve in the coming weeks, the Australian Open could be moved elsewhere. However, Tiley has come out against this motion.

“It hasn’t even crossed my mind,” he said.
“Heaven and earth will be moved to make it work in Melbourne. I don’t see any scenario possible where the Australian Open would move.”

Elaborating further, Tiley argues that Melbourne Park could operate as a ‘world-leading” quarantine venue for players to play safely.

“Melbourne Park itself is a massive quarantine opportunity for us,” he insists.
“The whole network and the whole hub being put next to the city, you can actually create a bubble over Melbourne Park to make it extremely safe. It will be world-leading.”

Sofia Kenin and Novak Djokovic are the current Australian Open champions.

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