Tennis: US Open to go ahead without fans, despite player COVID-19 concerns

Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York
Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York Photo credit: Getty

The US Open tennis Grand Slam seems likely be held without fans amid concerns of a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The United States Tennis Association has reportedly decided to go ahead with the two-week event in New York, despite several players expressing concern about attending.

Citing unnamed sources, Forbes says the men's ATP Tour and the WTA, which runs the women's circuit, are both expected to approve a plan for the August 31-September 13 event in New York, with a formal announcement due soon.

The USTA's agreements with the men's and women's tours are "happening or almost there", one source has told Forbes. ESPN, which cited a source familiar with the plan, says the USTA is waiting for approval from local and state health officials.

"We're following each step in the [restart] procedure in the great hope that we can announce that the 2020 US Open will be played in its regularly scheduled date," USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier says in the ESPN report.

"We hope to make an announcement in the very near future."

No professional tennis tournaments have been held since March, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has left the sport's calendar in tatters, and the shutdown will extend until August.

Wimbledon was cancelled altogether, while the French Open has been moved to September, due to start one week after the scheduled US Open men's final.

World No.1 Novak Djokovic and reigning US Open men's champion Rafa Nadal are among the players who have expressed concerns about attending the New York tournament.

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic Photo credit: Getty
Roger Federer
Roger Federer Photo credit: Photosport

Earlier this month, Nadal said he would not travel to the US Open in current circumstances, while Djokovic said playing the event this year would be impossible given "extreme" protocols that would be in place.

In mid-April, the USTA said its decision on whether to hold the Grand Slam this year would be made in June and playing it without fans is on the table, but highly unlikely.

The US Open is held annually in New York City, which has been hit hard by the pandemic. The USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center was even turned into a temporary hospital to help in the battle against the virus.

Last year's edition drew an all-time attendance record of nearly 740,000 fans and the event is the engine that drives the governing USTA.