USTA Offers To Reinstate US Open Wheelchair Events Following Backlash

WASHINGTON, June 20, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

The US Open has done an about-face and offered to reinstate the wheelchair tennis competition to this year’s tournament, Simon Briggs of The Telegraph of London, confirmed on Friday. In responding to heavy complaints and criticism – much of it directly from wheelchair competitors such as Australia’s Dylan Alcott, a 10-time major winner (including two US Open titles) who accused the United States Tennis Association of “disgusting discrimination” for planning this year’s Grand Slam without wheelchair tennis – there’s been a change of heart by the governing body of the US Open.

The total prize money pool for the US Open wheelchair events, according The Telegraph, is expected to be $325,000 (U.S. Dollars).

Originally, the USTA had planned to cancel mixed doubles, juniors, legends and wheelchair events – plus pare down the men’s and women’s doubles draws.

According to The Telegraph’s reporting, “The USTA acknowledge that the Association should have communicated directly, and worked in a collaborative manner with the wheelchair athletes when developing the plan for the 2020 US Open, as it had done with both the ATP and WTA.” Also, “The USTA also committed to working with the players and the ITF to explore a number of potential scenarios for the Wheelchair Competition to determine the best approach moving forward for the athletes and the competition.”

Since Thursday, many able-bodied tennis players – including Andy Murray – spoke out in support of the wheelchair tennis community. Appearing on Australia’s Today Show Friday morning, Alcott had said of the US Open’s decision to omit wheelchair events: “This sets a really dangerous example around the world that we are second-rate citizens and aren’t worth as much as our able-bodied counterparts.”

Alcott went on to say in the interview: “I actually spoke to Andy Murray on the phone for 30 minutes last night, he’s publicly this morning backed us wheelchair tennis players online, which is awesome. I know a lot of the top players, the likes of Federer and Novak are reaching out internally to try and help because they love wheelchair tennis as well I know the public does, too. 

“I just want to get the decision-making back in our hands.”

Friday afternoon (Eastern Daylight Time), the US Open issued a formal statement on the US Open Wheelchair Competition. In it, it said: “The USTA expects to gather player feedback on their perspective and work with the ITF to finalize an approach to the 2020 US Open Wheelchair Competition.”

On Saturday morning, Alcott responded to the USTA statement, writing on Twitter: “Positive start. Still a ways to go but we will keep pushing – pardon the pun 😉 couldn’t of even started this conversation without everyone around the worlds incredible support. Thank you!”

Adria Tour resumes this weekend in Croatia

The Adria Tour has arrived in Zadar, Croatia, for the second weekend of charity competition. Like last weekend in Belgrade, the eight-player field, headed by Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev, has been broken into two groups of four players each. Group Novak Djokovic includes: Djokovic, Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Pedja Krstin. Group Alexander Zverev features: Zverev, Andrey Rublev, Marin Cilic and Danilo Petrovic.

Group play begins Saturday with four afternoon matches starting from 2 p.m. (CEST) and four evening matches beginning at 7 p.m. (CEST). On Sunday, group play will conclude with four matches from 2 p.m. (CEST) with the championship final scheduled for 8 p.m. (CEST). The exhibition tournament will follow a Fast Four format (best-of-3 sets until four games with a tie-break played at 3-all).

Tennis Channel commemorates Juneteenth

The history of tennis has been complicated. However, thanks to pioneers like Althea Gibson and – more recently – the Williams sisters and Coco Gauff, tennis has grown to support diversity while still making progress. On Friday’s Tennis Channel Live, Jon Wertheim presented a Juneteenth edition of “Unstrung” followed by a panel discussion that included Wertheim as well as presenter Steve Weissman and analysts Tracy Austin and Paul Annacone.

Friday’s Tennis Channel Live also commemorated Juneteenth with a video followed by a discussion presented by Weissman and featuring USTA past president Katrina Adams and former American player turned broadcaster Chanda Rubin.

Osaka making impact beyond tennis 

Naomi Osaka discussed Black Lives Matter, both in the world and in Japan, as part of Wednesday’s “TIME 100 Talks Asia” virtual event. Osaka, who was named one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People, has been making an impact, using her voice during tennis’s lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In talking about the Black Lives Matter movement, Osaka said she’s pleased with how the movement has grown. “I think it’s important to have these conversations, whether it makes someone uncomfortable or not. I think that’s how you grow, and we learn more about the world.”

Osaka spoke cautiously about the US Open. “I want to play,” she said. “I don’t know if they’re really prepared for this, and if the rules keep changing. And also, if there’s going to be another spike [in Covid-19 cases], you never know what’s gonna happen. But for me right now, I’m definitely preparing as if it’s going to happen.”

Dare to Dream – Venus Williams 

Earlier this week, Venus Williams celebrated her 40th birthday. At the turn of the millennium, Venus won her first Wimbledon singles title with a 6-3, 7-6 (3) victory over Lindsay Davenport. On Friday, Wimbledon debuted “Dare to Dream,” a five-minute documentary on Venus’s 2000 Wimbledon title run, narrated by her younger sister Serena.

Behind The Racquet – Brandon Nakashima 

As a promising junior player growing up in San Diego, Calif., 18-year-old American Brandon Nakashima let his tennis racquet do his talking. That’s because he was shy. “I didn’t talk to many people because I didn’t want to say the wrong thing,” he wrote this week in a first-person essay he penned for the Instagram series Behind The Racquet.

“I didn’t want to say the wrong thing,” the 220th-ranked Nakashima wrote. “I am most comfortable speaking when I’m confident expressing what I feel. Between interviews and the college recruiting process I started to speak up.” 

Nakashima attended the University of Virginia for one year and earned ACC Freshman of the Year honors before deciding to turn pro. He called his decision to leave college for a professional career a tough choice. “I decided to go to college then I decided to turn professional,” he wrote. “These choices were very tough moments for me. There were a lot of people voicing their opinions and I wanted to keep an open mind. In the end, I made choices that were best for my future.

“I am grateful for the support I received during this time. For me, college was the first step before turning professional. I had to decide which school and how long I would stay there. College helped my game as it allowed me to mature physically and mentally prepare for life on tour.”

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“I struggle with being shy. I have always been introverted. As a junior player, I let my racquet do the talking. I didn’t talk to many people because I didn’t want to say the wrong thing. I am most comfortable speaking when I’m confident expressing what I feel. Between interviews and the college recruiting process, I started to speak up. ⁣ ⁣ I recently made big decisions for my future. I decided to go to college then I decided to turn professional. These choices were very tough moments for me. There were a lot of people voicing their opinions and I wanted to keep an open mind. In the end, I made choices that were best for my future. I am grateful for the support I received during this time.For me, college was the first step before turning professional. I had to decide which school and how long I would stay there. College helped my game as it allowed me to mature physically and mentally and prepare for life on tour.⁣ ⁣ It was a hard decision to leave the University of Virginia. I built many strong relationships in college, and it was difficult leaving my teammates and coaches after only one semester. They were very supportive of my decision.⁣ ⁣ I have not experienced much pressure during the first few months playing professionally. I am one of the youngest players so there is not much pressure on me. I will have to deal with more pressure in the future. The traveling can be draining but I am enjoying the process.” @brandon_nakashima #BTR⁣ ⁣ Go to behindtheracquet.com for extended stories, podcasts and merch.

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What they’re saying

Richard Gasquet, was asked by Le Parisien about the revised 2020 ATP schedule: “This schedule is totally crazy. So many tournaments in such a short time, it is grotesque. But everyone wants to save their tournament and its economy.”

What they’re writing

Matt Willis (@MattRacquet on Twitter), founder of the Substack tennis newsletter @TheRacquet, has written a lengthy, worthwhile essay, “The Modernisation Of Tennis,” in which he asks: “Alarmism aside, is Mouratoglou’s wider point right or wrong? Is tennis in trouble? And if it is, how do we help it?”

What they’re sharing on social media

On this week’s episode of #TennisUnited …