EXCLUSIVE: Former British No 1 insists US Open can be a big success despite the absence of fans

US Open Flushing Meadows

Former British No 1 Annabel Croft has told Tennis365 that she would have no hesitation heading to America to play in next month’s US Open, despite the ongoing threat of the Covid-19 virus.

Tennis has been on hold since March amid the global pandemic, but Croft had told Tennis365 that the sport can resume safely in New York, despite a rising tide of coronavirus cases in other major states in America.

EXCLUSIVE: Annabel Croft insists Novak Djokovic should not take all the blame for Adria Tour nightmare

Croft, who hosted Amazon’s coverage for the successful Battle of Brits event featuring Andy Murray at the LTA’s National Tennis Centre last week, suggests that tennis can be played safely despite the disastrous end of Novak Djokovic’s Adria Tour that saw the world No 1 and a host of senior figures involved in the event contracting Covid-19.

“If I was still playing now, I would be ready to get back on court at the US Open next month,” she told us. “Having been involved with the Battle of The Brits event at the LTA’s National Tennis Centre last week, I saw all the precautions that went into making sure that event ran smoothly and confirmed to me that tennis can be played in these extraordinary times. The tournament was a huge success and we can all take encouragement from that.

“From what I hear, the way they are planning to put the US Open on is a safety-first approach on every level, with precautions to protect the players to ensure they play in a safe environment a priority for everyone.

“If I was a player and knew that all those precautions are in place, then I would take responsibility for my own health and make sure I needed to do what I need to do and play.”

US Open Flushing meadows

Croft admits the absence of spectators at what is traditionally the most raucous Grand Slam event on the tennis calendar will ensure a very different atmosphere at Flushing Meadows, but she is convinced the intensity on the court between the players will remain.

“Empty stands at the US Open will be strange, but we saw Andy Murray walk on court at the Battle of the Brits event last week and there was no-one clapping, no cheers and everyone watching at home on TV enjoyed it,” she added. “Here was a three time Grand Slam champion, a two time Olympic Gold medalist, giving his all playing some high-quality tennis.

“All the top players will have been playing tennis all their lives and they would have played most of their junior matches in front of no crowds, with just their parents watching. They also practice a lot without anyone watching and when you are a ruthless competitor, they won’t care if a crowd is present when they get out on court and start playing.”

The BBC are screening an array of Wimbledon coverage over what should have been the two weeks of The Championships, with Sue Barker presenting a show live from the All England Club every night at 8pm on BBC2.

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