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Novak Djokovic 'extremely happy' that Grand Slam tournaments are being planned

Novak Djokovic serves to Stan Wawrinka during the

Novak Djokovic serves to Stan Wawrinka during the fourth round of the U.S. Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Sept. 1, 2019. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Novak Djokovic did everything but commit to playing the U.S. Open during a Tennis Legends podcast that aired in Europe on Thursday.

“I’m extremely happy and excited to see that all the tournaments, especially Grand Slams, are organizing their events," the three-time Open champion said while also citing the French Open’s intention to play two weeks after the Open concludes on Sept. 13 in Flushing Meadows.

"I think that a lot of people were skeptical, especially for the U.S. events considering what the U.S. went through as a country during this pandemic,” said Djokovic. “So a lot of people, including myself, were quite skeptical on whether it would happen or not.”

In an interview two weeks ago Djokovic was highly skeptical of his ability to play in the Open.

“We would have to sleep in hotels near the airport and should be tested two to three times a week. We would only have the right to be accompanied by one person. It is simply impossible,” said Djokovic, who characterized the safety measures to be taken by the USTA as “extreme.” “You have to take into account coaches, physical trainers, physiotherapists.”

In its media conference on Wednesday to discuss staging the Open, the USTA said that he would help players arrange private housing that could account for larger entourages. The USTA announced it would be using the TWA Hotel at JFK and another as yet unnamed one and players could have adjoining rooms that accommodate four people.

"We are very glad that it is happening, of course, and it is very important that we provide opportunities, we provide jobs, we provide opportunities for players to compete,” said Djokovic, who has organized a set of exhibitions in the Balkans that began last week. “Because at the end of the day, this is what we do. As tennis professionals we love the sport; we are passionate about it. We miss competing and travelling and, at the end of the day, we miss being on tour. So I think this is very positive news.”

The ATP and WTA tours issued preliminary schedules for tournament to start in August. And while Djokovic expressed his approval of that, he also sounded a cautionary note.

"Obviously the regulations and measures as of today are quite strict, I must say,” said Djokovic. “With quarantine and with some players, especially those from South America, not being able to travel out of their countries to come to the sates. Hopefully that will change: the ATP and the USTA, everyone is working on it. The worst case scenario is that it remains like this, but there is time.”

Defending women’s champion Bianca Andreescu, who defeated Serena Williams in the 2019 final, also praised the efforts of the USTA but did not actually commit to playing. Williams did commit to playing during the USTA’s Wednesday conference.

Defending men’s champion Rafael Nadal has been very cautionary in his view of playing in the Open and may face a scheduling dilemma. The absolute king of clay would be looking to win his 13th French Open title at the tournament which starts Sept. 21. He is also the five-time champ of the Madrid Open which is scheduled to begin right after the U.S. Open.

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