After gaining the approval of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to stage the US Open in Queens this summer, tournament organizers have unveiled their official plan for the event.
No fans will be admitted into the grounds of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center for the 2020 US Open, set for August 31 through September 13. The same holds true for the Western & Southern Open, which is being relocated from Cincinnati to New York and held onsite as a tune-up event August 20-28.
“These two events are the summer’s biggest tennis blockbusters in the U.S., and we are thrilled for the players, our fans, and all of our partners, that we will be able to mark the return of tennis,” said USTA executive director and CEO Mike Dowse said in a statement.
Officials mark the decision to stage both events in one location as a way to mitigate risk and keep events scheduled on the tennis calendar without compromising medical procedures. COVID-19 testing protocols will be put in place for all players and essential personnel, along with implementing proper sanitary measures.
“First and foremost, our decision-making has been guided by the health and well-being of all who will take part in the 2020 US Open,” said USTA president Patrick Galbraith. “After educating ourselves through consultations with experts, and following near round-the-clock planning for three months, we are confident that we have a plan that is safe, viable and the right thing to do for our sport.”
Changes in the tournament’s format will take place with the US Open no longer holding its Qualifying Tournament. Additionally, the doubles main-draw will be reduced from 64 teams in both the men’s and women’s field to 32 teams each. The men’s and women’s singles draws will maintain their traditional 128-player field.
To accommodate players impacted by the elimination of qualifying rounds, the USTA has provided $6.6 million in relief grants and subsidies. Those funds will be distributed to the men’s and women’s circuits, which will determine how to utilize funds. A total of $60 million in prize money has been allocated between the two professional events.
Despite organizers’ plans to go ahead with the US Open, the playing field may look different this year given the initial reaction from players. There has been a divide among the men’s and women’s tours about staging the tournament and whether individual players will in fact commit to the competition.
Top ranked male Novak Djokovic has slammed organizers for “extreme” protocols and threatened to skip the tournament in favor of focusing on the clay court season – which would begin one week after the US Open’s conclusion with the rescheduled French Open. Outspoken Aussie Nick Kyrgios called the move “selfish” while defending men’s champ Rafael Nadal said he would not feel comfortable traveling to New York at the moment.
One player embracing the sport’s return, however, is six-time US Open champ Serena Williams. She revealed in a video message posted on social media that she’ll be throwing her hat in the ring as she vies for her 24th Grand Slam title.
“Ultimately, I really cannot wait to return to New York and play the US Open 2020,” she said. “I feel like the USTA is gonna do a really good job of ensuring everything is amazing and everything is perfect and everyone is safe. It’s gonna be exciting.”