Wheelchair competition given US Open lifeline as organisers open talks with role players
US Open organisers have promised to look at ways the wheelchair competitions can take place this year following a barrage of criticism about how their axing from the schedules was handled.
The United States Tennis Association announced on Wednesday that a streamlined version of the US Open would take place behind closed doors from August 31 to September 13, with all wheelchair events among those to be scrubbed.
Paralympic champion Gordon Reid, a four-time winner in the men’s doubles at Flushing Meadows and two-time singles semi-finalist, said he was given no forewarning that this would be the case and found out the news on Twitter.
Massively disappointed to find out on twitter this morning that the @usopen plan on cutting wheelchair tennis from this years tournament. The wheelchair players have had ZERO communication or consultation from either the ITF or the Grand Slam around this decision.
— Gordon Reid (@GordonReid91) June 18, 2020
The International Paralympic Committee was also critical of the decision, with president Andrew Parsons saying the USTA should not be using the coronavirus pandemic as “an excuse to discriminate against a group of players”.
A USTA statement said: “(On Friday) the USTA, in conjunction with ITF wheelchair tennis leadership, conducted a very productive call with the wheelchair athletes who traditionally compete in the US Open wheelchair competition.
“The USTA acknowledged that the association should have communicated directly and worked in a collaborative manner with the wheelchair athletes when developing the plan for the 2020 US Open, as it had done with both the ATP and WTA.
“The USTA also committed to working with the players and the ITF to explore a number of potential scenarios for the wheelchair competition to determine the best approach moving forward for the athletes and the competition.
“The USTA expects to gather player feedback on their perspective and work with with the ITF to finalise an approach to the 2020 US Open wheelchair competition.”
The news could go some way to appeasing the likes of Reid, who said on Friday night: “Positive discussions with @usopen today. They’re looking to make it right with the help of the players.”
Reacting to the initial exclusion, Parsons said on Thursday: “We urge organisers to reconsider this decision which could potentially undo years of great work to promote and showcase the sport of wheelchair tennis.
“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.
“There has been tremendous progress in recent years to advance wheelchair tennis and promote inclusion, not least by USTA and at the US Open.
“However, just as we cannot have a situation where athletes are barred from sporting events on the grounds of race, gender, nationality or sexuality, they should not be stopped from competing because they play in a wheelchair.”
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