A look at how COVID-19 has impacted the 2020 Grand Slam odds
Like the rest of the sporting world, the 2020 tennis calendar has been turned upside down. One grand slam has already been played, one tournament will definitely not be played and two tournaments are scheduled but might not be played depending on what happens with the coronavirus pandemic in the coming months. It is a weird time in tennis, just as it is a weird time in other sports.
Here is the latest news in the tennis world as it relates to the Grand Slam tournaments in 2020 as well as the betting odds for who is favoured to win as of now. We’ll start with a recap of the year’s first major and then move into the uncertain world facing the remainder of the year.
Though Wimbledon is normally the third major of the tennis year, it won’t be played. Its status for 2020 is therefore confirmed and final: it won’t occur. Wimbledon paid for an insurance policy in case of a disaster or other unforeseen accident and that bit of foresight from the All-England Club means that the organisation will receive a considerable payment during the coronavirus pandemic. Wimbledon will not take a loss as a result of the pandemic, which made it very easy for the tournament to cancel its 2020 edition and wait for 2021.
2020 U.S. Open
Date: August 31st to September 13th
The two major tournaments yet to be played this year – but which will try to hold an event – are the United States and French Opens. The United States Open is scheduled first, on its regular dates, from August 31st through September 13th in New York.
Novak Djokovic has expressed concerns about traveling from Europe to the United States, a worry shared by a lot of other European players. However, after criticising the U.S. Open for being restrictive, he himself complicated the status of the U.S. Open (and whether it will be played) by contracting COVID-19 along with his wife after staging the exhibition-level Adria Tour in his native Serbia earlier in June.
The Adria Tour did not exhibit social distancing or mask-wearing. Fans attended and were tightly packed into the stands, without masks. Players shook hands at net and accepted towels from ballkids. Health and safety guidelines were widely ignored and so it was no surprise Djokovic came down with the virus, along with other pros Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric, and Viktor Troicki. This might scare players away from playing at the U.S. Open.
Roger Federer will not play the U.S. Open due to an injury suffered earlier this year but Rafael Nadal and other healthy European players have not made a commitment to play this event. This is adding to what is already a very uncertain situation in New York, whose coronavirus cases have decreased in recent months but might be vulnerable to a second wave of COVID-19.
If the United States Open is played, there will be no fans at the USTA National Tennis Center. Also, the need to have fewer linespeople on the court – in order to promote social distancing – means that the HawkEye video review system will be more widely used for the various matches at the tournament, assuming it is played.
One detail about the tournament which is a clear break from normal practice is that there will be no qualifying rounds. There is usually a three-round qualifying tournament played just before the 128-player main draws (men and women) begin on the first Monday of the two-week tournament. Not having qualifiers in the draw means that players in the main draw will not have played three matches earlier in the week. They will be physically fresher and that doesn’t even include the larger and more obvious point that with tennis suspended for several months due to the pandemic, every player is going to be physically energised. The U.S. Open is normally the major tournament in which injuries and fatigue catch up with players who have played a lot of tennis in the first eight months of the season and deal with the hot, humid weather of New York. Djokovic was visibly physically hampered when he lost last year to Stan Wawrinka. Those types of issues won’t be a concern this time around.
2020 French Open
Date: September 20th – October 4th
If the French Open is played this year, it will be played one week after the U.S. Open ends, from September 20th through October 4th. The fact that the French Open wants to play so soon after the U.S. Open is a good explanation for why Nadal is almost certain to not bother to play the U.S. Open. He would stay in Europe and there is a better chance – though hardly a guarantee – that Nadal will play the French Open, which he has won 12 times.
The big picture regarding the French Open is that if European players are reluctant to travel across the Atlantic Ocean to the United States for the U.S. Open, the same worries are held by American players and players on other continents who are concerned about making a long trip to France for Roland Garros. This is likely to reduce participation in the tournament, though Roland Garros will have qualifying rounds, unlike the U.S. Open.
Unlike the U.S. Open – which is planning to play during its normal schedule on the calendar – late August and early September – the French Open is trying to play at a time of year when it has never been played. The French Open has regularly been a late-spring event. Now it would play in early Autumn. One can’t know right now how France will handle the coronavirus at that time of year. The French Open won’t play with fans, just like the U.S. Open, but the different time of year is a big question mark.
Taking an early look at the tennis odds on MyBookie, Nadal is a -110 favourite to win the French Open while Djokovic is at +300 and Dominic Thiem is at +300 as well. On the women’s side, Simona Halep is favoured at +450 while Serena Williams and Ashleigh Barty are at +900, while Kiki Bertens and Garbine Muguruza are at +1000.
The one major of the year which did get played had thrilling championship matches. The Australian Open produced a tense, three-set women’s final won by Sofia Kenin over Garbine Muguruza. Kenin saved three break points early in the third set and used that escape to forge a decisive push. Kenin had beaten World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty in a tough semifinal, defeating Australia’s hope for a home-nation champion. Muguruza rebounded from a very tough 2019 WTA tennis season to make the final in Melbourne. Coach Conchita Martinez gave her the jump-start she needed to rediscover her top form. Muguruza beat Simona Halep in the semifinals.
On the men’s side, Novak Djokovic was down two sets to one in the final, but he rallied to defeat Dominic Thiem in five sets. Djokovic won his 17th major championship and his eighth Australian Open, denying Thiem his first major championship. Djokovic moved closer to Roger Federer’s 20 major titles.
The hope is by the time the 2021 Australian Open rolls around, we’re still not worrying about the COVID-19 pandemic. That might be wishful thinking, though. While the 2021 Aussie Open is still a long way away, they are probably already thinking about what types of adjustments they’ll have to make.
At last check, Andreescu is a +700 favorite to win the Aussie Open with Williams and Barty right behind at +800. As for the men, it’s Djokovic who is favored at +110 while Nadal, Federer, Daniil Medvedev and Dominic Thiem are all at +600.
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