Sunday, April 19, 2020

Can This Grand Slam Be Saved?

The USTA sent out their annual US Open media credential application email on Friday, so they are obviously keeping to their normal preparation schedule without knowing whether the event, scheduled for August 31-September 13, will be played at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. As I wrote in Thursday's post, USTA Executive Director Michael Dowse said he believed it "highly unlikely" the tournament would be played without fans, but also added that the USTA is "not taking anything off the table."

In the spirit of putting more options on the table, tennis historian and former USTA employee Randy Walker recently came up with a raft of contingency plans that would allow the 2020 US Open to be held.

Among his ideas are:

a three-week tournament, with women starting a week before the men to spread out the matches.

a smaller field, with no qualifying

no doubles, wheelchair, juniors events

fewer tickets sold, no grounds passes

mask required for entry

automatic line calling

move it to Indian Wells

move it to Los Angeles

add already canceled ATP/WTA events to schedule for second week of Open
Although I wouldn't reject any of these ideas out of hand, the only one I really like is the one that moves it to Indian Wells. This is the only facility comparable to the USTA BJK National Tennis Center, and the main objection Walker provides to this plan is the heat in the desert in September. I agree that would not be ideal, but I think the French Open has already shown us that moving the dates for a slam isn't unthinkable. I would like to see it held a couple of weeks after the French, which would be late October; by then, the high temperatures in Indian Wells would be in the 80s and 90s, not the 100s.  Jon Wertheim mentioned that ESPN might not be interested in broadcasting the event in the midst of the college and professional football seasons, but Tennis Channel certainly would. Anyway, that's my preferred solution, if it becomes clear that New York is not going to be available.

What do you think of Walker's ideas? Is there any way to salvage the last four months of the 2020 tennis year?


Jon King said...

Since a vaccine is the only answer to any sporting event with spectators, and a vaccine will either never happen or if it does be 10-18 months away, the only option is non-spectators. So that leaves a system of intense and frequent testing as the only viable pathway to any matches. Not sure how the economics would work without spectators and just TV revenues so I imagine the purses would have to be renegotiated.

Clark Coleman said...

Masks are a viable answer, along with reducing crowds. Vaccines are not the only answer.

Janet in Atlanta said...

Insurance companies have final say over these things. No insurance company will allow a tournament with spectators before a vaccine. Masks are not even proven as there are many types of masks. Masks do not address rest rooms, latency of the virus on surfaces after people touch them and many other issues. No vaccine, no spectators at a slam.