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Source: USTA plans to hold U.S. Open without fans starting Aug. 31

A general view prior to the women's singles

A general view prior to the women's singles first-round match between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova during the 2019 U.S. Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Aug. 26, 2019. Credit: Getty Images/Emilee Chinn

The United States Tennis Association is awaiting approval by New York State and the City of New York to go ahead with staging the U.S. Open as part of a doubleheader at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, according to a source with direct knowledge of the situation. 

The Open is scheduled to begin its two-week run on  Aug. 31 and would be preceded by the Western and Southern Open,  a top-tier men’s and women’s tournament owned by the USTA that is usually played in the Cincinnati suburbs as part of the run-up to the Open.

Both tournaments would be held without spectators during the COVID-19 pandemic and the number of people on site at the National Tennis Center would be heavily restricted.

“We’ve built a very collaborative plan,” the source said. “We built that plan with health and safety and mitigation of risk at the forefront of all of our decisions. That plan was built in consultation with our medical advisory group, with other medical experts, with a number of security experts and in collaboration with the ATP and WTA Tours.” 

The U.S. Open takes place in a very heavily crowded sports calendar in the New York area that usually includes the Mets and Yankees playing, the Jets and Giants starting their seasons (in New Jersey) and this year includes the U.S. Open golf tournament at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck. That tournament was postponed from its traditional June dates, which would have been this week. It now is scheduled the week after the U.S. Open tennis tournament concludes. 

“We recognize that the U.S Open is one of many sporting events in the state of New York and the state needs to look at its approach to sporting events in a very comprehensive manner,” USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier said. “We have a lot of confidence in the plan that we put forth and hope that the state agrees with that.”

Just who will be play in these tournaments remains to be seen. Several top players, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Ashleigh Barty and Simona Halep, have raised concerns over travel restrictions, potential quarantines, limits on traveling parties and a plan to house all players at a central location outside of Manhattan.   Once the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, the New York City area has had decreasing infection and fatality numbers in the wake of a lockdown and subsequent slow reopening of the state. According to the USTA, the possibility of quarantines by players traveling to New York from outside the United States is considered minimal. 

Djokovic, from Serbia, has characterized the restrictions as “extreme.” He has  organized a series of exhibition tournaments this month in the Balkans starting  last week in Belgrade. It included fans in the stands, ball persons on the court.   The U.S. Open would normally be the fourth and final Grand Slam of the season. The Australian Open was held at the end of January, the French Open was postponed until the week after the U.S. Open and Wimbledon was canceled outright in light of the tournament’s pandemic insurance policy.   

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