Two Long Island hotels are the official COVID-19 bubble residences for players, their small entourages and assorted officials during this year’s U.S. Open tennis tournament and the Western & Southern Open that precedes it.
The Long Island Marriott in Uniondale and the Garden City Hotel have been employed by the United States Tennis Association to create a controlled environment for the tournaments. The Western & Southern starts with qualifying on Thursday and runs through Aug. 28 at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, followed by the two-week run of the U.S. Open starting Aug. 31. Both tournaments will be without fans.
USTA officials outlined on Tuesday the safety protocols put in place for the biggest event in American tennis and revealed that a non-player tested positive for COVID-19 within the Western & Southern Open and U.S. Open controlled environment. The individual is asymptomatic and was the only positive out of 1,400 tests given.
“Specific to the two hotels in Long Island, ultimately all our decision-making still went back to the original principles of health and well-being being first and foremost,” said Mike Dowse, CEO of the USTA. “These two hotels we selected were the best opportunity to do that.”
“The nice thing about the Long Island hotels, they're in close proximity to each other, because we do have an overflow,” said Stacey Allaster, U.S. Open tournament director. “The Long Island Marriott is 100% ours. We have transformed that property, together with our partners, to create an exceptional experience of activities. We call it the Manhattan Project. You can't go to Manhattan but we'll bring Manhattan to you. There’s everything from their fitness, there's a gym, a recovery room, an arcade room, a gaming room, a golf simulator, sports simulator, this massive outdoor lounge, food trucks every night. It's a good vibe.”
Some marquee players such as Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic will be allowed to stay in private homes but also are required to follow the testing protocols.
Dowse said that the plans to go ahead with the Open and the W&S, a men’s and women’s tournament owned by the USTA, have always centered around three essential questions:
“One: Can we conduct a tournament in a healthy and safe manner for all those involved, from players, to staff, ultimately the local community here in New York City? Secondly: Is hosting these tournaments in the best interest of tennis, and does it support our mission of growing and promoting the sport of tennis? Third: Does it make financial sense for the players, the USTA and the broader tennis ecosystem?”
After extensive collaboration with federal, state and city officials and the USTA medical advisory group, the answer to all, he said, was "Yes."
“I want to reiterate this was never a host-at-all-cost approach,” Dowse said. “Our decision-making has been driven by the three principles just shared.”
“As of this morning, almost 350 players have entered this centralized Western & Southern and U.S. Open environment,” Allaster said. “We will all remain in our environment for as long as we are competing and they are competing for that prestigious ATP Masters Series title, WTA Premier title and Grand Slam title.
"I can assure you, I've been living in the bubble, the athletes have everything they need. They have comfortable housing, medical testing, transportation, practice facilities, trainers, physios, a variety of food services, and a number of experiences for their off time both on-site and in the official hotels.”
Any player who tests positive during the competitions will be removed from the tournament and isolated.
“I think the biggest thing that we really worried about was to make sure that we can keep players from socializing too much, too close to each other, not wearing the mask, not following our universal masking protocols,” said Dr. Bernard Camins of the USTA’s medical group. “In the four days that I have been involved and watching everybody, everybody actually has been following those recommendations carefully.”