US Open Going On As Scheduled But Not As Usual

WASHINGTON, June 16, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

According to multiple reports published Monday, the 2020 US Open will go on as scheduled. Both ESPN, which owns primary North American broadcast rights to the Grand Slam tournament, and The New York Times, confirmed in their respective reporting that the United States Tennis Association plans to move forward with staging the US Open as scheduled despite the uncertainty created by the coronavirus pandemic. It would begin on August 31 and conclude September 13 and take place at the Billie Jean King USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, New York, its home since 1978.

The USTA’s plans still need government approval. However, it appears that a formal announcement by the US Open’s governing body could come by the middle of the week.

“This is good for tennis. Credit to the USTA, it looks like we’re going to have our second major played staring in late August,” said Tennis Channel insider Jon Wertheim during Monday’s Tennis Channel Live. “I think the question will pivot to who’s going to be coming – which players are going to commit – and there are still so many unanswered questions to debate.”

While it is unclear at this time how many players are likely to take part in this year’s US Open, the plan right now – which the ATP and WTA tours have given their support – involves moving the ATP/WTA mixed event Western & Southern Open from Mason, Ohio, near Cincinnati, to New York in order to create a tennis doubleheader of tournaments. It would be a lead up to the US Open. Also, the Citi Open in Washington, D.C., another combined ATP/WTA event would be pushed back to a later starting date in August, starting Aug. 16. The ATP Rogers Cup in Toronto and the Winston-Salem Open would be cancelled.

Among the strict protocols, there will be Covid-19 testing regimens for players and officials to follow. Also, expect to see a restriction of movement and activities of the players. Plus, there’s likely going to be a limitation on the size of each player’s team. Finally, fans would be prohibit at the event.

Previously, World No. 1 Novak Djokovic has called some of the protocols “extreme” and “impossible” while World No. 2 Rafael Nadal has expressed reservations about flying to the U.S., being quarantined, and playing behind closed doors due to health and safety precautions being implemented as a result of the contagious coronavirus. Add to the mix, women’s World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, who earlier this week expressed her concerns via email to the Associated Press by writing, “I understand the tournaments are eager to run but keeping everyone safe has to be the priority.”

Indeed, this year’s US Open will be characterized by no fans, less travel and smaller entourages.

As Christopher Clarey reported in his New York Times story, published online Monday:

Even if the tournament is confirmed this week, more than two months will remain before it begins, and outside forces, including the path of the virus and global travel restrictions, may still scuttle the U.S.T.A.’s plans. The field may Also be thinner than usual, with athletes making individual decisions about whether to compete.

Still, after lengthy meetings and negotiations with tennis’s other governing bodies, the U.S.T.A. intends to proceed with the U.S. Open in its traditional late-summer dates with the support of its primary sponsors and ESPN, which is paying more than $70 million annually in rights fees to the organization mainly to televise the tournament.

“I have so much uncertainty,” said Hall of Famer Tracy Austin, who won two US Open singles titles, in 1979 and 1981, and is now a Tennis Channel analyst. Appearing Monday on Tennis Channel Live, she said: “Two months down the road, we don’t know where we’re going to be. So many things have changed. I would like to see the top players commit. I don’t want to see a US Open that is so watered down, but it may be a huge opportunity for some lower-ranked players to break in and, maybe, win that first major.

“There are so many unanswered questions and I think the players are going to have to sift through those in the next couple of weeks and make a decision with their teams.”

Tsitsipas-Gasquet decided by sudden death at UTS

Team Pliskova ahead in Tipsport Elite Trophy 

After a weekend of rain delays and a complete washout of play Sunday, the Tipsport Elite Trophy competition on clay got underway Monday in Prague. The team event features a lineup of mostly Czech Republic women’s players, captained by World No. 3 Karolina Pliskova and No. 12 Petra Kvitova, competing in both singles and doubles. Monday’s featured match was won by Pliskova over No. 31 Barbora Strycova, 6-2, 6-3, in one hour and 12 minutes. Pliskova hit six aces and broke Strycova’s serve four times.

Eastern European Championships begins

The Eastern European Championships, a regional men’s clay court exhibition, began at the Tipsarevic Academy in Belgrade on Monday. It continues through July 20. Among the first day winners were No. 47 Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia, who beat countryman Nikola Milojevic, 6-1, 7-6 (6). Other winners included: Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania, Blaz Rola of Slovenia, Viktor Troicki of Serbia, and Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine.

The Way Back Machine, pt. 1 – Roger Federer, 2003 Halle

Roger Federer won his first title on grass at Halle in June 2003. Soon, he would win his first Wimbledon.

The Way Back Machine, pt. 2 – Rafael Nadal, 2008 Queen’s Club

Rafael Nadal won his first grass court title at Queen’s Club in London in June 2008.

Behind The Racquet – Timea Babos

Timea Babos of Hungary started playing tennis for fun at age 10. Her parents had started her in swimming, but she showed an interest in tennis and with speed and a fighting spirit started to win tournaments – even if she lacked the technical expertise. She went off to train in England to learn the game and has played on the WTA since 2010. She’s currently ranked No. 100 after reaching a career-high of No. 25 in 2016. It is as a doubles player, often teamed by France’s Kristina Mladenovic, that Babos has shined. Two years ago, the duo attained the World No. 1 ranking. Babos has won 23 career doubles titles, including two Grand Slams (2018 Australian Open and 2019 French Open) with Mladenovic. They have also won the WTA Finals the past two seasons.

In a first-person essay she penned last August for the Instagram series Behind The Racquet, Babos, now 27, wrote: “I don’t really give myself credit but I have this proudness that I came from those tennis courts to winning Grand Slams in doubles, being number one, or being top 25 in singles. It’s something I would have never imagined, and I’m proud to do it for my country as well. It was a long road to get here. …

“I am far more mature than I ever thought I would be because of how much I learned from being alone on tour. I thankfully love playing tennis, so for me, all the sacrifices cannot compete with my love. I always had this fighting spirit and stubbornness to get through tough moments and believe in my work. To have extreme discipline and belief, you can achieve things which you have never even dreamed of.”

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What they’re saying

Richard Gasquet, currently ranked No. 50 in the world, told L’Equipe’s Quentin Moynet: “It is not catastrophic to come (to the US Open) with 1 or 2 people for three weeks. It is not death, life is long. The important thing is that everyone can play, from 300th to No. 1.”

What they’re writing

Tumaini Carayol, The Guardian of London tennis writer, from “The young British coaches blazing unlikely trails on the WTA Tour”:

Five years ago, Andrew Bettles’s dreams were only about himself. He was around the 1,000th best tennis player in the world and searching for more as he took a cheap flight to a series of tournaments in Sri Lanka. He arrived to desolate tennis courts with no fencing, clumps of earth masquerading as clay and the realisation that those dreams were far away.

“You take your big travel bag with you to the courts because you can’t leave it in the hotel as you only paid for the night. You go down a break early and you’re looking to see if your bag’s all right and no one is in it,” he says with a laugh. “It just wasn’t right. I felt like I needed to stop.”

When those at the lowest rungs of the game step away from their playing careers it is usually time to enter the real world. Instead, the 27-year-old from Somerset is now the head coach of the women’s world No 5, Elina Svitolina.

What they’re sharing on social media

Daria Kasatkina / Rock, paper, scissors with Rafa

Garbiñe Muguruza / Stories From Tomorrow …

Dominika Cibulkova / Welcoming Jakub to the world …

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And our world will never be the same again ❤️❤️❤️ 14/06/2020 we welcomed our precious son Jakub Navara ✨

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