Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, playing the US Open in 2020 is in no way guaranteed, but officials have recently come out with a few plans to keep the tournament alive.
The central ideas among these plans include charter flights, limited player personnel, COVID-19 testing before travel, centralized housing, daily health assessments, no spectators, less officials, and limited locker-room access.
USTA Chief Executive Comments
Before we break down what each of these things means, it is important to first know what Stacey Allaster, USTA Chief Executive for professional tennis, had to say.
“All of this is still fluid,” Allaster said in a telephone interview Saturday. “We have made no decisions at all.”
“We continue to be, I would say, 150% focused on staging a safe environment for conducting a U.S. Open at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York on our dates. It’s all I wake up — our team wakes up — thinking about,” Allaster said. “The idea of an alternative venue, an alternative date … we’ve got a responsibility to explore it, but it doesn’t have a lot of momentum.”
An announcement should come from “mid-June to end of June,” Allaster said.
Alright, let’s start with the idea of charter flights. These would include flights for players and their limited staff to be able to travel from Europe, South America, and the Middle East. Among the cities that have been named as possible charters to JFK International Airport are Paris, Vienna, Frankfurt, Buenos Aires, and Dubai.
After the US Open finishes, these players might be able to use the same airlines to travel to their next tournament.
In terms of player personnel, the USTA has made it very clear that they wouldn’t want players coming with large staffs and would likely provide some of their own for players.
“A player coming with an entourage of five, six, seven, eight is not something that’s in the plan,” Allaster said.
Next, COVID-19 testing before travel and continued testing play a large part in these plans. Basically, before any player even thinks about coming to New York, they would need proof of a negative COVID-19 test.
“Once they come into our, let’s say, ‘U.S. Open world,’” Allaster said, “there will be a combination of daily health questionnaires, daily temperature checks and … some nasal or saliva or antibody testing.”
Centralized Housing & Limited Locker-Room Access
As for centralized housing and limited locker-room access, this should be an easy adjustment for most players. Instead of players staying wherever they want, they will likely all be staying at the same hotel. Additionally, players will not be allowed access to locker-rooms during practice sessions.
No Spectators & Fewer Officials
Finally, the hardest one to swallow was left for last, no spectators and fewer officials.
“We are spending a lot of time and energy on all the models, including no fans on site,” Allaster said. “The government will help guide us.”
This would also include matches being called by fewer line judges and more electronic line-calling technology.
“It’s a hard one,” Allaster said. “Obviously, we want to ensure that we have the highest level of integrity.”
As for ball people, the current plan includes having them, but only adults and no children.
All of this has been presented by the USTA to medical advisory groups and from here it will be a group effort among city, state, and federal officials to make a decision.
Although it isn’t how we would wish to see this year’s US Open, any form of a Grand Slam would be a gift right now.
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