Ash Barty has joined the ranks of high-profile players concerned over the staging of the US Open while there’s still so much uncertainty around the coronavirus pandemic.
- Women’s world number one Ash Barty has not played since the Qatar Open in February
- Professional tennis has been shutdown since March due to the coronavirus pandemic
- Wimbledon has been cancelled, the French Open is rescheduled for September, and the US Open is awaiting confirmation of a start in late August
The women’s world number one hasn’t had the chance yet to defend her French Open title because all elite tennis competition is shut down.
She’s already processed the fact there’ll be no Wimbledon in 2020 but is still awaiting clarity on the US Open, which is scheduled to begin on August 31.
Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, winners of the last eight men’s major titles, have aired reservations about the potential restrictions on players, limits on player entourages and other changes being considered for the US Open.
Women’s number two Simona Halep is reportedly also uncertain about playing.
“I have concerns too,” Barty said in an email to The Associated Press.
A decision from the US Tennis Association’s board about whether to hold the tournament in New York in August could be made as early as this week.
The New York Times, which cited unnamed sources, said the USTA would announce the tournament would go ahead with support from the men’s ATP Tour and women’s WTA Tour.
The USTA’s agreements with the men’s and women’s tours are “happening or almost there,” one source told Forbes magazine.
ESPN, which cited a source familiar with the plan, said the USTA was waiting for a green light from local and state health officials.
“We’re following each step in the procedure that we need to with the great hope that we can announce that the 2020 US Open will be played in its regularly scheduled date,” USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier said in a statement to Reuters.
“We hope to make an announcement regarding the status of the 2020 US Open in the very near future.”
The US has accounted for more than 115,000 of the almost 433,000 deaths globally from COVID-19, including more than 30,000 in the state of New York, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Novak no lock to play at Flushing
Djokovic last week told Serbia’s state broadcaster RTS that most players he’s talked to “were quite negative” about entering the US Open and that for him, “As things stand, most probably the season will continue on clay at the beginning of September”.
The French Open was postponed from a May start to late September because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Under usual circumstances, the US Open is the last of the four majors to be played in the season, when the tours go back to hard courts following the grass and clay-court swings.
US Open tournament director Stacey Allaster said organisers had been trying to figure out how to “engage fans virtually”, making it unlikely fans — or at least large groups of fans — would be allowed to attend.
Under proposals to get the tournament started, players would need to prove they had tested negative for COVID-19 before traveling on charter flights the USTA would organise from a handful of cities.
There would likely be daily health questionnaires and temperature checks, along with occasional nasal, saliva or antibody testing.
Barty said she was “still getting my head around what the tournament set up would be”.
Australia closed its international borders in March and there are still travel restrictions domestically and strict physical-distancing regulations, although restrictions are easing.
Australia has recorded 102 deaths from 7,335 cases of COVID-19, but the infection rate is declining.
“I can’t wait to get back out there and play but we have to make sure it’s safe to do so first, not just for me but for my team,” Barty told AP.
Barty has not played competitively since a semi-final loss to Petra Kvitova at the Qatar Open in late February.
That followed her first title on home soil at the Adelaide International in January and her semi-final run at the Australian Open.
She has been able to spend time at home in Queensland since March, keeping up tennis practice and fitness while also lowering her golf handicap during regular rounds with her partner, Garry Kissick, a trainee golf pro.
She had a 24th birthday during the height of the lockdown in April, and hosted a virtual party on Zoom earlier this month to mark the first anniversary of her first major singles title at Roland Garros.
A Grand Slam title defence at Roland Garros is likely a priority for the remainder of the year, but there is so much unknown.
“When we have some certainty on the rest of the year, my team and I will sit down and set a few tennis goals.”