The US Open is due to kick off in Queens, New York on August 31. Recently, a number of high-profile tennis players have pulled out of the tournament over fears about COVID-19.
The latest player to do so is defending US Open champion, Rafael Nadal. This tournament would have given Nadal the chance to equal Roger Federer’s men’s record for grand slam titles, the ABC has reported.
“I have decided not to play this year’s US Open,” Nadal wrote on Twitter. “The situation is very complicated worldwide, the COVID-19 cases are increasing, it looks like we still don’t have control of it.”
Nadal revealed that he didn’t want to have to make this decision but he prefers not to travel at the moment, given the current health crisis.
This is a decision I never wanted to take but I have decided to follow my heart this time and for the time being I rather not travel. pic.twitter.com/8VA0aSACVy
— Rafa Nadal (@RafaelNadal) August 4, 2020
“Rafa is one of the greatest champions in our sport and we support his decision,” US Open tournament director Stacey Allaster said.
Women’s world number one Ash Barty recently announced that she would also be skipping this year’s US Open, as did Nick Kyrgios. Both cited concerns over COVID-19.
“My team and I have decided that we won’t be travelling to the US and [Cincinnati Masters] and the US Open this year,” Barty said in a statement.
“I love both events so it was a difficult decision but there are still significant risks involved due to COVID-19 and I don’t feel comfortable putting my team and I in that position. I wish the USTA all the best for the tournaments and I look forward to being back in the US next year.”
According to the ABC, players are able to withdraw from the tournament until the start of play, so there might be a few more withdrawals in the coming weeks.
Update: June 19, 2020
Earlier this week, tennis officials announced that the US Open would go ahead in August — sans spectators — despite fears over COVID-19.
Australian Paralympian and tennis player, Dylan Alcott, tweeted yesterday June 18, that the same officials had also decided to omit wheelchair tennis from this year’s tournament, which takes place in New York. Alcott was understandably upset by this decision.
“Just got announced that the US Open will go ahead WITHOUT wheelchair tennis. Players weren’t consulted. I thought I did enough to qualify – 2x champion, number 1 in the world. But unfortunately, I missed the only thing that mattered, being able to walk. Disgusting discrimination,” Alcott wrote.
“And please do not tell me I am a ‘greater risk’ because I am disabled. I am disabled, yes but that does not make me SICK. I am fitter and healthier than nearly everybody reading this right now. There are no added risks.
“And for sure there are far more important things going on in the world, but that choice should’ve been up TO ME. It is blatant discrimination for able-bodied people to decide on my behalf what I do with my LIFE AND CAREER just because I am disabled. Not good enough @usopen.”
Andrew Parsons, the president of The International Paralympics Committee, has urged the organisers behind the US Open to reconsider this decision, acknowledging the anger and upset felt by the athletes who haven’t been given the opportunity to compete simply because they’re not able-bodied.
“We appreciate that the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown up multiple challenges for sport event organisers all around the world, but such challenges should not be used as an excuse to discriminate against a group of players and not offer inclusive competition for all,” Parsons said in a statement.
Alcott has experienced a wave of support since his first tweets, with fellow tennis star Andy Murray sharing Alcott’s tweets on his Instagram Stories.
Big thanks to Andy Murray for supporting us wheelchair players publicly, and many other top able bodied players supporting us behind the scenes to get us wheelchair players to the US open. Andy, you’re a ledge on and off the court 🤙🏼 https://t.co/7kFDsAMu43
— Dylan Alcott (@DylanAlcott) June 18, 2020
Alcott’s partner, sexologist Chantelle Otten, also posted these tweets to her Instagram page, where she shared her disappointment and anger over the decision.
“So… Dyl has been in training day in and day out for months,” she wrote. “Sticking to [a] strict diet, missing time with loved ones to maintain fitness, pushing his body to the limit, keeping his mind good and then…he doesn’t get asked if he would want to participate in his own career?
“…because he can’t walk. Disgraceful.”
At the time of publication, the United States Tennis Association (UTSA), who is responsible for organising the US Open, hasn’t acknowledged whether or not this decision will be reviewed.
June 17, 2020
Officials have confirmed that the US Open tennis tournament will still take place in New York in August, but it will happen behind closed doors. This means no spectators will be able to attend the games.
New York state’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, announced the news at a briefing yesterday, as reported by The Guardian.
“We’re excited about the US Open,” Cuomo said. “It’s going to be held in Queens from 31 August to 13 September. It will be held without fans, but we can watch it on TV — and I’ll take that.”
According to Cuomo, the United States Tennis Association (UTSA) would do everything they could to “protect players and staff” by taking “extraordinary precautions … including robust testing, additional cleaning, extra locker room space, and dedicated housing and transportation”.
Given that all other sporting events around the world have either been on hold or canned altogether including Wimbledon — which has been cancelled for the first time in 85 years — all eyes will be on the US Open to see if organisers can create a COVID-free event.
“We recognise the tremendous responsibility of hosting one of the first global sporting events in these challenging times, and we will do so in the safest manner possible, mitigating all potential risks,” said USTA chief executive officer, Mike Dowse. “We now can give fans around the world the chance to watch tennis’s top athletes, and showcase tennis as the ideal social-distancing sport.
Despite these safety measures, a number of tennis stars are unsure whether the grand slam should go ahead, including Novak Djokovic.
“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, as per news.com.au.
“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.”
Aussie players Nick Kyrgios and John Millman have also voiced their concern over the impending tournament.
“The ATP is trying to make the US Open go ahead. Selfish with everything going on at the moment. Obviously Covid, but also with the riots, together we need to overcome these challenges before tennis returns in my opinion,” Kyrgios tweeted on June 11.
When it was announced the US Open was going ahead, Kyrgios tweeted: “People that live in the US of course are pushing the Open to go ahead.”
“I’ll get my hazmat suit ready for when I travel from Australia and then have to quarantine for 2 weeks on my return,” he wrote.
Given how hard COVID-19 has hit New York, the concern is warranted. According to news.com.au, there have been more than 211,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the city and over 17,000 deaths.
“I love the US Open but it seems a little crazy that we’re still contemplating playing a grand slam there, right?” Millman tweeted on June 12.