US Open organizers propose cutting out qualifying, reducing doubles draw

Sports Desk, Jun 10 (efe-epa).- US Open organizers said Wednesday in a remote meeting organized by the Association of Tennis Professionals and involving around 400 players that it is still planning on holding that Grand Slam tournament from Aug. 31 to Sept. 13, albeit with no qualifying rounds and reduced doubles draws.

For now, a final decision on the tournament dates is to be made on June 15. The proposals to scrap the qualifying and shrink the different doubles draws from 64 teams to 24 teams would affect more than 150 players.

The meeting was headed by Andrea Gaudenzi and Massimo Calvelli, the ATP’s chairman and chief executive officer, respectively; the chief executive for professional tennis for the United States Tennis Association (USTA) and the US Open, Stacy Allaster; and the chief executive of the Women’s Tennis Association, Steve Simon.

The qualifying and doubles proposals are being promoted as a way to better protect the health of the players and other people on the grounds of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, the venue for the US Open.

But they also fit with belt-tightening measures being carried out by the USTA, the organization that owns and organizes the US Open, which on Monday announced that in response to the coronavirus crisis it will be cutting 110 jobs and closing its office in White Plains, New York.

The USTA’s main goal now is to convince the sport’s top players to participate in the US Open, especially considering that in recent days Serbian world No. 1 Novak Djokovic and Spanish world No. 2 Rafael Nadal cast major doubt on whether they would make the trip to New York.

Djokovic said a few days ago that the US Open’s proposed coronavirus-triggered limits on player entourages would be completely unacceptable.

“We would not have access to Manhattan. We would have to sleep in hotels at the airport, to be tested twice or three times per week. Also, we could bring (only) one person to the club, which is really impossible,” he said.

In remarks Tuesday to Serbian public broadcaster RTS, Djokovic characterized the Covid-19 protocols being planned for the US Open as “extreme.”

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

He was referring to preparations for the French Open, tennis’ premier clay-court event, which normally is played in late May and early June but, because of the pandemic, is currently scheduled to take place from Sept. 20 to Oct. 4.

Nadal, the defending US Open champion, said this week that he has no current plans to play in this year’s event in New York but will see how events unfold over the next two months.

“The key, of course, is to find a (vaccine) that helps us to be sure we can travel and compete without being scared of having the virus and bringing back the virus home. My feeling is we need to wait a little bit more.”

The issue of a vaccine may put Djokovic in a bind, however, as the Serb said in April he is personally opposed to vaccinations and would not want to be forced to have one in order to travel, although he added that he is “keeping an open mind.”

No vaccine against Covid-19 is expected to be ready before year’s end.

The other member of men’s tennis’ “big three,” Swiss great and world No. 4 Roger Federer, said Wednesday that he recently underwent a “quick arthroscopic procedure” on his troublesome right knee and will not compete again until 2021.

Referring to whether fans will be allowed at the US Open, the USTA said late last month that it is weighing different scenarios that include permitting a limited number of spectators and potentially holding the tournament with no fans. EFE-EPA


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