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Tuesday, March 24, 2020

New Tennis Task Forces Wants Your Input; US Open Changes Surface Provider; NCAA Champion Perez-Somarriba Ponders Future

In what is being referred to as an Industry Call to Action, a task force has been formed to look for ways to help the tennis community deal with the issues the COVID-19 pandemic has presented. They are soliciting ideas from those in the tennis industry on ways to mitigate the effects of this long layoff, but would like to have those suggestions by this Thursday, March 26.  Although the focus appears to be on getting local clubs through this difficult period, I think the junior and collegiate tennis community can provide some valuable guidance on the third item mentioned below. My input will focus on the need for advance preparation and flexibility in rescheduling USTA junior tournaments should tennis actually return by the current date of May 3, (which I consider highly unlikely) and what the contingency plans for the pent-up demand will be.  I also will suggest that a qualifying tournament for this summer's Level 1 events, including the Clay Courts and Kalamazoo, might be appropriate this year, should those be played in July and August, given that many other means of qualifying might not be available this year. I also would welcome a major ITA individual tournament this summer that could stand in for the canceled May championships. Of course, there is no guarantee that tennis will be able to get back to normal this summer, but being prepared for the possibility is a prudent way to spend this current downtime. Below is the email I received today, which I believe is a major step forward in the usually fractured tennis framework.

As all of us confront the many uncertainties caused by this rapidly-shifting environment, the entire tennis industry is coming together to provide guidance and support with the difficult decisions, decisions regarding ourselves, our families and our communities, we are all facing.

To that end, the USTA, USPTA, PTR, TIA, ITA, industry media partners, and other stakeholders, have formed an industry task force charged with creating an action plan and a centralized informational hub as our industry responds to the unprecedented challenges created by the COVID-19 virus.  Now, more than ever, it is important that our industry faces this challenge with a unified front. 

The task force’s work is focusing on three main areas:

1. How to ensure the best health and safety standards at this time for facilities, pros and players

2. Helpful information for facilities and individuals to access potential financial support and other recommendations on finances and resources for the front line of tennis

3. How to use the near-term downtime to best prepare our sport/industry to come back strong.

First, the task force will circulate an industry survey so that we can assess the true state of where our sport is at this moment.  Second, we are calling on providers, tennis facilities, manufacturers, subject matter experts and others in this industry to provide us with the most common and pressing concerns we are all facing in the near-term, and what are suggested actions and best practices we can take as we move forward from this immediate situation. 

We ask that all individuals please submit this information to www.usta.com/industryunited by Thursday, March 26.  This location within usta.com will now serve as an accessible hub for this information and for your concerns.

We recognize the stress and uncertainty that all members of the tennis community are facing during this period as we all deal with the far-reaching impact of the COVID-19 virus, and we are striving to serve tennis providers, partners and players in the most effective and efficient way possible.

Yesterday the USTA announced that the US Open has changed surface providers, with Laykold scheduled to be in place for this year's Open. The Billie Jean King National Tennis Center had previously been played on DecoTurf.

Today the Miami Herald checked in with 2019 NCAA women's singles champion Estela Perez-Somarriba, a senior at the University of Miami, who did not get an opportunity to defend her title when the NCAA canceled all spring championships for 2020. Perez-Somarriba is currently still in Miami, with her home country of Spain one of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Perez-Somarriba will undoubtedly wait to make a decision about returning to the Hurricanes until after the NCAA announces the details of the extra year of eligibility next week, but the article explores all the factors that will inform her decision.