How will the U.S Open work this year?

US Open Flushing Meadows

The COVID-19 pandemic forced many sports leagues, events and tournaments to be suspended and postponed indefinitely. But with lockdowns and stay at home orders being lifted almost every day.

The U.S Open has been rescheduled to begin on August 31st, with the French Open rescheduled to September, but Wimbledon, unfortunately, has been cancelled for 2020. We’ve now been told how the U.S Open will work this year, and you can bet it will be very different from years past. 

The biggest change is where players will be staying. In any other year, that would be a local hotel, or a rented house or apartment, making it more like a mini-holiday with some tennis thrown in. 

But for 2020 at least, all players will stay in the same tightly-controlled hotel for the duration of the tournament. Organisers want to introduce a sort of lockdown to ensure the safety of the players and officials. 

Players will also only be allowed one guest, and this is turning out to be one of the biggest sticking points for some. Usually, a player will have a coach – or two – a physio, a hitting partner or maybe other essential team members, as well as some family or friends

Considering most pro tennis players require a whole team to perform at the top level, this sort of restriction is going to be tough for some – especially when it comes to choosing exactly who gets left behind.

The Open’s organisers are also planning mass daily testing on everyone involved in the tournament, and hope that the Lockdown-style accommodation will keep COVID-19 infection at bay. 

Many non-US players have already voiced concerns. It will be very difficult to stay in the same hotel for multiple weeks with a much reduced entourage, and massively restrict training time.

Home players might find they have more leeway in accommodation and team support but it may not be possible for players traveling from Australasia, the Middle East, Asia and Europe. 

Serena Williams semi-final win US Open

Money seems to be the biggest driving force behind holding the Open in 2020. No surprise really – the US Open is the USTA’s biggest draw each year, and without it – and the income it generates – they are really going to struggle. 

Obviously the games will be played “behind closed doors” – with no revenue from spectator tickets – but the matches will all be broadcast. Organisers have also insured that 95% of the prize money will be available, meaning that even though the tournament will be losing millions from lack of ticket sales and sponsors, players will still receive about the same amount of winnings. 

But tournament organisers are also being met with road blocks from some of the top pros, who just can’t seem to get their head around the 2020 rules. Some of the lower ranked and fringe players are also concerned, as there is talk of cancelling the qualification rounds, and cutting the doubles tournament from 64 pairs to 24. 

Many of the world’s top 100 players that have been involved with meetings and discussions with the tennis association have also reportedly not shown much enthusiasm towards flying to New York and being locked down for a month with only one familiar face and incredibly limited movement. 

There had been discussions over the possibility of the Open being moved to another city, given that New York has been a Coronavirus hotspot, with Indian Wells touted as the next best thing; however, these talks were quickly cancelled after a massive spike in infections in California. 

The big question is how many players can travel to New York, be completely locked off from the outside world, and still perform at the highest level without their personal support system. 

Some believe this is too much to ask of anyone, and considering the Federation needs to confirm within the next week if the tournament will go ahead or not, it’s putting extra pressure on coming to a decision that suits everyone. 

With the possibility of some top pros not even making an appearance, another option is to cancel the American Open all together. This is obviously a last resort, but if no agreement can be made soon, it could very quickly become the only possibility. 

Any way you look at it, this year’s Open is going to either be very interesting, or very boring. Like most sporting events and leagues in 2020, there are only two probable outcomes, they either happen or they don’t. 

It will be interesting to see if there are any concessions made in the lead up to the September  Open. New York has seen a big drop in infections and deaths, and if this trend continues, a fairly normal tournament might still take place. Only time will tell.