With the US Open just days if not hours from announcing their intent to play the event as scheduled, an undercurrent among the tennis players has developed with many top international stars indicating that they may not make the trip to New York.
Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Simona Halep are just a few of the bigger names who are on record saying they might skip the tournament, which has said they will even charter jets for the top stars to ease the travel. Their reasons vary from safety to logistics to even player entourage limits.
The US Open has said to keep the tournament as safe as possible, players will be restricted to just one other member with them on site. And for someone like Djokovic who brings with him a large group, the question becomes, who goes, who stays? With wives/husbands/significant others, coaches, trainers, agents, kids, parents, spiritual advisors and pets, it can get messy very quickly!
Of course all of this is small potatoes when you look at the big picture of the event being held during a pandemic. But the players, as we have seen this week, are willing to play. Djokovic, Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev have been busy playing fan-filled exos as have others. But cross-continental travel is still a tricky, un-tested nuisance.
And I can sympathize — living in the U.S., would I take a trip to Europe right now, and possibly have to quarantine for a week or two? For me, it’s not worth the hassle.
The players would get paid and would get taken care of, but having to possibly quarantine, being away from their families and the uncertainty over this coronavirus are all valid issues.
So the strong possibility exists that if the US Open does go on, the draw could be filled with North American players. Remember Milos Raonic? He might be your pre-tournament favorite!
And then a few weeks after New York, the Europeans would get their Slam with the French Open.
We’ll have an August of summer in the U.S. with events like D.C., Cincinnati and the US Open for Americans and Canadians, then the tour goes to Europe for an abbreviated clay season culminating with the French for the Europeans.
Asians might have to waiting until October and a possible Tokyo, Shanghai, Wuhan Beijing swing. Then, perhaps some indoor events, although they seem unlikely right now. And I’m not sure how an ATP or WTA finals can even be played.
I guess some tennis will be better than none, but even as tennis restarts, my feeling is the sport won’t be truly back until next April at the earliest.
The virus is still out there and we are now trying to co-exist with it. Trying is the important word. Golf and NASCAR are already back in the U.S., and the NBA, NHL and NFL will be operational soon, and baseball wants to play. But sadly there isn’t a guarantee we even make to to August.
We are still along way away, but at least tennis seems to have a return plan… for now.
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