How the US Open will operate under social distancing guidelines?

A few weeks ago the US Open was seen to be hanging onto hope. Over the last week or so the impressions were the US Open will go ahead and last night a statement from USTA CEO Mike Dowse said:

“We are incredibly excited that Governor Cuomo and New York State have today approved our plan to host the 2020 US Open and 2020 Western & Southern Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

We recognise the tremendous responsibility of hosting one of the first global sporting events in these challenging times, and we will do so in the safest manner possible, mitigating all potential risks. We now can give fans around the world the chance to watch tennis’ top athletes compete for a US Open title, and we can showcase tennis as the ideal social distancing sport.

Being able to hold these event in 2020 is a boost for the City of New York and the entire tennis landscape.”

A full statement was due to be released on Wednesday but details of how the US Open would take place were released early:

  • Western and Southern Open usually played in Cincinnati will be played in New York from 22nd-28th of August. Qualifying for the Western and Southern Open will be from 20th-21st of August
  • US Open will begin on the 31st of August and run to September 13th
  • There will be NO – Singles qualifying, mixed doubles, juniors, wheelchair tennis
  • Doubles draw for the US Open will be 32 teams based on ranking and participation
  • Singles draw for the US Open will be 128 players as usual
  • As there is qualifying for Western and Southern Open (48 singles draw) there will be no qualifying for the US Open. If there was qualifying for the US Open it would result in another 230+ players on site.

In their Safety Plan they have stated two major priorities:

Priority 1 – Health and Safety of Players & Teams

Priority 2 – Providing players with ranking points, prize money and an optimal experience

Compensation

Obviously there will be no qualifying for the US Open and smaller doubles draw. The USTA has announced that $3.3 million will be given to each the WTA and ATP tour to distribute to players who would have missed out on a place.

Travel, Accommodation & Player Teams

  • Players will be staying at the TWA Hotel at the JFK Airport
  • All Players will be provided with two rooms (second of which they pay for) all of which have a capacity of two people
  • USTA are still monitoring situation surrounding social distancing but current rule in place allows for one member of the team to travel which some top players aren’t keen on.
  • All play will travel to New York on their own.
  • Federal government have assured USTA there will be no issues entering the country
  • Players will be able to travel to the NTC via shuffle system which will operate at 25-50% capacity

There is also an option being looked for players to rent a private home outside of Manhattan. The USTA are currently working with estate agents to look into this. This is a similar thing top players do at Wimbledon. The cost will be covered by the players and is estimated over $40,000.

There is no confirmation on if players rent a home if they will be able to bring more members of their team.

Testing & Guidelines

Some of these measures are subject to change depending on the situation at the time of the event

  • Testing will be conducted before travelling to the USA
  • Testing will be continuous during competition and will take place at the hotel
  • At this time, testing will be 1-2 times per week.
  • Daily temperature check and symptom questionnaire
  • If a player does test positive or shows symptoms, he/she will be isolated and USTA will follow medical protocol recommended by the CDC (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention)
  • All players and their guests must wear face masks on-site.
  • Face masks do not have to be worn when practicing, competing in a match or during fitness training sessions.
  • All players and teams must adhere to current social distancing guidelines

All this coming out before any communications were made with players has stirred things up

Even before all of this has come out there was skepticism from the top players around playing the US Open.

Nadal a couple of weeks back said he feels it should be fair for everyone to play and to be able to travel. These guidelines don’t match Nadal’s belief.

Djokovic suggested he could miss the US Open and prepare for clay instead due to “extreme” measures put in place only allowing one member of players’ teams to travel. This was echoed by other top players as well.

Patrick Mouratoglou confirmed Serena want’s to play the US Open but to only bring one person would be extremely difficult and could not be almost a month away from her daughter.

Serena has since confirmed her participation…

View this post on Instagram

A message from 6x champ Serena Williams.

A post shared by US Open (@usopen) on

Simona Halep’s Coach Darren Cahill also said the measures of bringing one member of the team wouldn’t work for her. Romanian TV has recently published that Halep will only play in Europe this year, this is unconfirmed.

Wildcards

A question that popped up was wildcards…

Obviously there will be singles draws of 128 players all based on ranking. Due to Federer not playing due to injury it would mean Del Potro and Murray would scrape into the draw. It is unlikely all the top 128 ranked players will be play anyway so there is a bit of wriggle room.

If Kim Clijsters is to play she would require a wildcard to qualify…

UPDATES –

  • 16 wildcards (8 men and 8 women) will be given out in singles
  • Players can bring 3 guests across their two hotel rooms
  • Only Ashe and Armstrong Stadium will have line person
  • All other courts to have electronic line calling
  • Grandstand at the US Open to be used as the main court for the Western and Southern Open.

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