When on Wednesday the USTA announced there would be a full singles program, limited doubles draw, no mixed doubles, no juniors and no wheelchair tennis you expected they’d at least consult all of those involved first?
The USTA spoke to players, ATP and WTA to outline their plans. It was announced compensation of €3.3 million was given to both the ATP and WTA to compensate the players who won’t be able to play due to the reduced schedule (no qualifying and smaller doubles draw). Juniors don’t get prize money anyway at a major just points so it is effective there and most of mixed will be playing singles or doubles anyway so it is a major issue.
What is an issue is there was the treatment of Wheelchair Tennis.
The words ‘wheelchair tennis’ were used once in the live conference just to announce it wouldn’t be played.
Dylan Alcott who is world number one and a fifteen time Grand Slam champion then took to Twitter to voice his disgust at the discrimination shown against Wheelchair Tennis.
The wheelchair players and the ITF were not consulted on not playing at the US Open, there were no talks and no compensation plans in place, they were ignored but why?
This quickly blew up, I saw Dylan speak on Melbourne’s morning breakfast TV and the reaction was incredible! Other wheelchair players took to social media to voice their disappointed and it was amplified by the sharing of the tweets of Dylan’s by Milos Raonic and Andy Murray on their Instagram accounts. Dylan also had a chat on the phone with Andy Murray for about half an hour about the situation.
Since all this the US Open have responded with a statement admitting their fault in this.
The fact they have said they acknowledge “that the Association should have communicated directly and work 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” shows how wrong this was from.
There is soo much of this statement which leaves me baffled on how they made such an error whilst also having a US Open Wheelchair Tournament Director. Joanne Wallen is the tournament director for the Wheelchair Event since 2017 as per her LinkedIn page so how on earth did this happen?
How did they manage to cut the wheelchair event, not consult the players or the ITF and the Tournament Director for Wheelchair Tennis just sat there?
Apparently they are now working with the ITF and Wheelchair players to come up with a solution.
According to Stephane Houdet who has won 22 Grand Slam titles there are three options which it is understood the players will vote on:
1 – Cancellation and $150,000 of prize money shared
2 – Play in Orlando in October (not sure why?)
3 – Play at the US Open as usual but with 5% less prize money
For me, I don’t think the US Open should have offered options. I think they should welcome them back and reinstate the competition and also offer compensation to those who maybe aren’t keen on playing.
This isn’t about them “righting their wrong” but a bigger issue of equality. Wheelchair athletes and event were not considered quite simply and it’s disgusting.
Mike Dowse the CEO said on the day of the announcement:
“These tournaments also serve as an inspiration to tennis players of all levels”
Well, the original plans didn’t.
What hasn’t happened is an explanation as to why it was cut in the first place? The original decision makes no sense.
By the time the wheelchair events begin in the second week out of the 256 singles players only 32 are left. Over 75% of players would have gone home so having reservations about the amount of players on site is nonsense by the time wheelchair players would be on site.
This wouldn’t happen in singles, doubles, qualifying etc… the USTA even recognised they should have consulted but didn’t. It’s discrimination a great shame the wheelchair event isn’t treated with the same equality as it should be.
You can read more on what happened below…