Last Wednesday, officials from the United States Tennis Association (USTA) formally announced that the tournament will be played on its regularly scheduled date at the end of August. The USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center will also host the Western & Southern Open a week prior to the U.S. Open.
“In this tough and trying year, that is not just good news, it’s remarkable news,” said Katrina Adams, USTA’s immediate past president. “Holding the U.S. Open will be good for our sport on every level of the game.
“Playing the Open will once again shine a spotlight on tennis,” she added, “and get people excited about playing our safe and healthy sport for themselves.”
According to Mike Dowse, USTA’s CEO and executive director, the organization convened a team of tennis executives in mid-March to contemplate what to do with the tournament.
The group looked at a dozen different options guided by three principles: if the tournament can be played safely, if hosting the U.S. Open is in the best interest of tennis, and if the event makes financial sense for players and the USTA.
“The combination of the U.S. Open and the Western & Southern Open checked all three boxes unequivocally,” Dowse said.
From a medical perspective, Dr. Brian Hainline, the chairman of the USTA’s Medical Advisory Group and a board member, said tennis “may be the best sport for you” from a health and well-being point of view. He said tennis is an “ideal” sport for physical distancing and socializing safely.
“It’s also good for society because sport is an important aspect of who we are as human beings,” he said. “Even to watch sport, it brings us so much pleasure.”
Dr. Hainline noted that players and their entourages will stay in their “protected bubbles,” either in their hotel or the stadium complex. Players will also be tested upon arrival and at least once per week after that.
If a player does test positive, the practices of physical distancing and universal masking will help prevent the disease from spreading to other people, he said. There will also be designated areas where athletes who test positive will be isolated.
The Western & Southern Open’s qualifying tournament will be from August 19 to August 20, while the main draw runs from August 21 to August 28. The U.S. Open will be from August 31 to September 13.
Player hotels will open on August 15, according to Stacey Allaster, the U.S. Open tournament director, including the new TWA Hotel at JFK International Airport.
Each athlete will be provided two hotel rooms: one the USTA will pay for and another the player will pay for. Each player will be permitted to bring up to three additional guests.
At the National Tennis Center, outdoor cafes and suites at Arthur Ashe Stadium will be converted into lounges where players can prepare for matches. The South Plaza will also be transformed into a sports center.
When asked about the possibility of tennis stars opting out of the 2020 U.S. Open due to the pandemic, Allaster responded that the tournaments will have “incredible star power.”
“There will be ongoing conversations with athletes to help them understand the plan,” she said. “They will make their own decision.
“We are confident we do have a lot of players and interest to compete,” Allaster added. “We’re confident that is what they will share with their fans around the world.”
At least one tennis superstar will play in this summer’s U.S. Open: Serena Williams. In a video, Williams said she cannot wait to return to New York.
“It’s going to be exciting,” she said. “It’s been over six months since a lot of us have played professional tennis.”
Williams, who is seeking her record 24th Grand Slam singles title and seventh U.S. Open title, said she will miss the fans.
“Just being out there in the New York crowd, hearing everyone cheer,” she said. “I’ll miss that getting me through some of those tough matches.”
Last Tuesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo said the USTA will take “extraordinary precautions.” Despite not having fans on site, he said he will take watching the tournament on television.
“We must remain vigilant and the USTA is taking all the necessary precautions with players and staff,” Cuomo said, “but this is an exciting day for the state.”