There’s no question that sports may look a little different going forward amid the coronavirus crisis, but the governing body behind the US Open tennis tournament is doing everything in its power to put on the annual event this year.
All options are being explored for holding the tournament, USTA Executive Director Michael Dowse told Inside Tennis magazine. The year’s final grand slam may even face both a schedule and location change as Dowse confirmed reports that relocating the tournament to Indian Wells, California may be in the cards. Should that be implemented, the event would be held in November rather than its scheduled August 31-September 13 dates in New York. A final decision on the tournament’s fate is expected to come in June.
“There’s too much speculation – we’ll know so much more in June. In reality it’s certainly possible to play without fans,” Dowse told the publication. “No formal decision has been made about Indian Wells. Whatever we do, we’ll have to do it in alignment with the owners of Indian Wells, and the ATP and the WTA. These days the most energy is on social distancing.”
The USTA could opt to hold the tournament as scheduled in New York without fans, but may face concerns regarding players traveling to the current global epicenter of the virus. Additionally, its late-summer dates only provide a week in between the conclusion of one grand slam and the start of another with the French Open officially rescheduled for September 20 through October 4.
The Indian Wells scenario would eliminate any scheduling concerns regarding the French Open and still keep the US Open as the year’s final major. It may also allow fans to be admitted into the complex, though California Governor Gavin Newsom has ruled that the return of mass gatherings would come in the final phase of the state’s reopening plan. Regardless of speculation, the USTA is prepared to do what it takes to crown tennis champions in 2020.
“All of us want the US Open to happen and we are ready to help with increased testing and to help players get in and out of the country,” Dowse said. “We have three priorities: 1) the health and well-being of the players, staff, fans and all those involved; 2) what’s good for tennis; and 3) the financial impact. Everything is still on the table and we’ll be going forward based on the three-phase approach noted in the federal guidelines.”
In the meantime, the tournament’s home at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center has been providing relief to those in hard-hit New York. The complex was transformed into a supplemental hospital site with 450 medical beds and distributes up to 25,000 meals per day to first responders, health care workers and children in nearby neighborhoods.