US Open Without ‘Big Three’ Becoming More Likely

WASHINGTON, June 11, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

Imagine a 2020 US Open men’s draw with none of the “Big Three” — Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. It could happen.

First, Federer pulled the plug on the remainder of his 2020 season when he tweeted news to his 12.7 million followers on Wednesday morning that he underwent a second operation on his injured right knee and had begun to set his focus on 2021. Second, Nadal recently suggested that he doesn’t relish the thought of having to travel to the U.S. and compete behind closed doors. Although it would seem possible that if the French Open is green-lighted the King of Clay would defend his title, nothing is certain. Which brings us to Djokovic.

During a Tuesday evening interview with Serbia’s state broadcaster RTS, the World No. 1 Djokovic said he is considering skipping the US Open in New York, if it is played, because of the restrictions that would be in place because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, which he deemed to be “extreme” and not “sustainable.”

Among the “extreme” and not “sustainable” precautions cited by Djokovic were:

• A 14-day quarantine required of players arriving from outside the United States.

• Restricted access to courts, which would theoretically cut down on practice time.

• Limit of one person per competitor at matches instead unlimited number. Thus, no “team” entourages.

• Restricting movement of players off site – no visiting Manhattan – to hotels near tournament tournament site in Queens.

Also, Djokovic said: “Most of the players I have talked to were quite negative on whether they would go there. For me currently, as things stand, most probably the season will continue on clay at the beginning of September.”

By Wednesday afternoon, at least one player – American Danielle Collins, ranked 51st in the WTA – called out Djokovic, suggesting he was out of touch with regards to the financial security of his fellow players.

“This is a serious contradiction to previous comments about having players … inside the top 100 donate money to players outside of the top 250,” Collins wrote to Djokovic on her Instagram platform. “No one has been able to play sanctioned events or make money since February. Here we have an awesome opportunity with the US Open talking about proceeding forward with the event, with some strict safety precautions to make sure all players feel safe and their health is put first. This is a massive opportunity for players to start making money again, and here we have the top player in the world saying only being able to bring one person with [him] will be too difficult be able to bring his entourage.”

Collins suggested that “if it’s safe to play, and the USTA, WTA and ATP do everything in their ability to prioritize the health of the players, I think we should support that. It’s easy when someone’s made $150 million throughout their career to try and tell people what to do with their money, and then turn down playing in the US Open.

“For those of us (most tennis players) who don’t travel with an entourage, we actually need to start working again. It would be nice to have the best player in the world supporting this opportunity and not spoiling it for the players and the fans!”

Roger Federer joins the world in pause

On Wednesday, Roger Federer lit up Twitter – like only he can – with news that he had closed the book on his 2020 season after having a second arthroscopic procedure on his injured right knee. In no time, Federer’s tweet skipped across continents and oceans. Soon, media and fans, alike, began weighing in with their comments and opinions.

Joel Drucker, a writer and historian-at-large for the International Tennis Hall of Fame, penned “After setback during rehab, Roger Federer joins the world in pause,” a thoughtful essay that is worth a good read. His take away:

Maybe it’s also fitting that Federer is taking a pause from tennis. One of Federer’s most appealing aspects is his unsurpassed command of time – in everything from the tranquil way he conducts himself with people, to the time he devotes to practice, to his deep appreciation of tennis history, to the way on the court he moves through time and space.

But what has happened to the world this year has altered everyone’s relationship to time and movement, right down to how we even exist.

“For the first time in modern human history we are not being asked to do,” wrote Heather Wallace in a very thoughtful article on Medium that was published in April. “We are allowed to be. We have been given the space to feel.  To heal. To assess our relationship with ourselves and the world around us.”

So it will also go for Roger Federer. We await the return of all. In time.

What they’re saying 

During a recent interview with Tennis Majors‘ Carole Bouchard, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, co-host of Tennis United, was asked about the importance of conversation among players during the pandemic lockdown. Mattek-Sands said:

I think this goes back to how individual of a sport tennis is. A lot of us are so used to kind of being in our own bubble. And it’s not easy for us to even be super social at tournaments because we’re there for a job, and we all have different schedules. So when we have a lot of time on our hands and, in this instance, where we don’t even know when we’re going to be competing again, it was actually tough for a lot of players then, and it still is. But we kind of come together knowing that they’re not the only ones in that space. We’re all in this, we are all kind of unsure of what we’re coming back to, and at the same time, we can support each other from afar.

And keeping that lighter side of things, the humorous side of things is good too. There are so many serious things and they are important and it’s not about not talking about it. But I think there’s a balance. If I just listen to the news all day, it would be tough to be happy. There’s a certain amount of facts that you need to face, and then at the same time, how do we stay positive? How can we laugh a little bit? How can we stay lighthearted? And that’s a big premise of the show. That’s actually my personality: I like to find ways to enjoy things. I’ve been through a few tough injuries, and that was one of the best ways for me to come out of that, trying to really find positive aspects, find some silver lining because they’re definitely there.

It’s interesting because I think even though each player is handling this time a little bit differently when you speak to them, you realise why they are really good at what they do. Because they have a certain outlook, a certain way of figuring out a process of tackling obstacles or facing challenges. When you ask them a serious question about staying positive or about staying motivated, they all give a really good answer. It’s one of the reasons why I think everyone should be looking up to these touring pros a lot because they are a really good influence and they have great mentalities and they’re learning more about themselves. So I think it’s fun for me to share their stories and connect the fans with the players and the players with each other. So there are a lot of good things coming out of it.

What they’re writing

Simon Briggs, Daily Telegraph tennis correspondent, from: “Timing of Roger Federer’s surgery may be key to ninth Wimbledon title – it’s a no-brainer”:

In its own small way, Roger Federer’s announcement on Wednesday morning fits in with 2020’s status as the year of extraordinary headlines.

Clearly, a tennis player undergoing keyhole surgery is hardly a matter to place alongside the worldwide tragedy of Covid-19, or the recent upheavals over racial discrimination.

But this is a story we would have struggled to conceive of in 2010, when the first questions about retirement began to be thrown in Federer’s direction.

You can imagine the conversation. “So you’re telling me that, when he’s 38, he’s still going to be having operations in order to get fit for another season? Here, have another drink.”

What they’re sharing on social media

Borna Corcic / Bio training 

Donna Vekic / Tennis is back!

David Goffin / Exceptional court coverage

Elina Svitolina / With love …