US Tennis Open Preview

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The 140th US Open is scheduled to get underway at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Centre at the end of August. It will be the first major tennis tournament since the World Health Organisation declared Covid-19 a pandemic in March, and a surreal atmosphere is expected. Read on for a full lowdown on the current state of play.

When is the US Open due to take place?

The US Open will begin in New York on Monday, August 31. It is scheduled to run for the usual two weeks and conclude with the men’s final on Sunday, September 13.

Qualifying matches have been called off after a period of consultation with the New York state government. The top 120 players in the world rankings will instead receive an automatic entry, along with eight wildcards. There will be men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles and women’s doubles events, but mixed doubles, junior and wheelchair events have been scrapped. Players that enter the singles events will not be allowed to enter the doubles events.

Will spectators be allowed to watch the action live?

There will be no spectators inside the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center for the 140th US Open. It will be the first time that the event has ever been held behind closed doors. That follows on from almost all the other sporting events that have resumed since the coronavirus lockdown. A few pilot schemes have started allowing a handful of fans to watch live sports around the world, but there will be strictly no spectators at the US Open. Players will be allowed up to three guests each as part of their entourages.

What coronavirus prevention measures are in place?

Players must test negative for Covid-19 before flying to New York for the tournament, and they will continue to be tested throughout. Anyone that tests positive will have to withdraw. Players and personnel must wear face masks at all times, apart from when they are training or playing. This is in accordance with Centres for Disease Control and Prevention regulations. Only the two main courts, Arthur Ashe Stadium and Louis Armstrong Stadium, will feature line judges. Electronic line-calling will be used on all other courts.

Can we expect all the world’s best players to descend upon New York for the tournament?

Sadly not. World number one Ashleigh Barty had already pulled out of the tournament, citing coronavirus fears. Compatriot Nick Kyrgios also decided to skip the event. “It hurts me at my core not to be out there competing in one of the sport’s greatest arenas, Arthur Ashe Stadium,” said Kyrgios. “But I’m sitting out for the people, for my Aussies, for the hundreds and thousands of Americans that have lost their lives, for all of you. It’s my decision.”

He previously branded the United States Tennis Association “selfish” for holding the tournament while the daily death count remains high. Roger Federer is also out with an injury.

There were fears that world number two Rafa Nadal would also miss it, as the French Open is scheduled to begin just two weeks after the US Open, but he is now expected to play after the Mutua Madrid Open was scrapped.

Will the players be rusty?

That is highly likely. The players have been out of action since early March, with just a few exhibition matches to keep them in shape. The WTA returned with the Palermo Ladies Open in Italy on Monday, August 3, and the participants looked understandably short of match fitness. The Citi Open was scheduled to restart the men’s tennis tour in Washington, D.C. on August 14, but it was cancelled due to international travel restrictions and recent trends in the coronavirus had led to the cancellation. The players will have had very little time to prepare for the US Open.

There have been events like the Battle of the Brits, while Novak Djokovic staged a disastrous Adria Tour in June, which resulted in several players contracting Covid-19, but they will have grown unaccustomed to proper competitive action.

Who are the favourites to win the trophy?

Djokovic will be the clear favourite to win the men’s tournament in the exciting tennis prices on the US Open. The Serb last won the US Open in 2018, but he went on the win the Australian Open and Wimbledon last year and he began 2020 by winning his 17th Grand Slam in Melbourne. He is now just two behind Nadal and three behind Federer in the all-time stakes. Defending champion Nadal is second in the betting to win the men’s event.

Serena Williams is likely to be the narrow favourite to win the women’s tournament. She has not won a Grand Slam since the 2017 Australian Open, when she was pregnant, but she has had several near misses since then, and she is likely to be the favourite now that Barty has pulled out.

Who are the dark horses to keep an eye on?

Coco Gauff thumbs up

Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have won all the available Grand Slams since the start of 2017, but it might be time for a youngster to finally break their stranglehold. Federer is out of the tournament, and both Djokovic and Nadal could find themselves off the pace due to a lack of preparation for the tournament.

Winning the US Open requires great endurance over a punishing two-week schedule, and a younger, fitter player might prevail. The prime candidate is Daniil Medvedev, who went all the way to the final last year, but Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev might also fancy their chances.

Andreescu is likely to be the most popular pick for the women’s tournament, but Sofia Kenin and the 16-year-old Coco Gauff look like interesting dark horses.

There is also the prospect of the great Kim Clijsters – a three-time US Open champion between 2005 and 2010 – returning to action following her eight-year hiatus, rolling back the years and challenging for glory, so it promises to be a fascinating if surreal event.