A look at issues surrounding the U.S. Open

AP Photo
1 Comment

Novak Djokovic is fretting about “harsh” restrictions on players’ entourages and other “extreme” changes proposed for the U.S. Open — and saying he might not participate if it is played.

As of now, defending champion Rafael Nadal would not want to be in Flushing Meadows at all, either.

While the tennis world awaits a decision, which could come as soon as next week, from the U.S. Tennis Association’s board about whether to hold the Grand Slam tournament in New York in August amid the coronavirus pandemic — and if so, with what precautions — there are plenty of questions surrounding the event.

A look at some of the issues:

WOULD PLAYERS GO?

The top two men in the rankings, No. 1 Djokovic and No. 2 Nadal, winners of the last eight major titles, expressed ambivalence in recent days. “The rules and regulations they informed us about, that we would have to follow in case we play in the U.S. Open, are really extreme,” Djokovic said in an interview with Serbian channel TV Prva. “They want to hold the tournament at any cost for economic reasons, which is completely understandable to me. But on the other side, the question is whether all this is achievable and how many players want to participate under those conditions.” Last week, Nadal was asked whether he planned to enter the tournament. “Today,” he said, “I will say, ‘No.’ In a couple of months? I don’t know.”

WOULD FANS BE ALLOWED?

It sounds unlikely that spectators would be able to attend. Stacey Allaster, the USTA’s chief executive for professional tennis, said her group has been trying to figure out how to “engage fans virtually.” Last year, about 850,000 people went to the National Tennis Center over the three weeks of qualifying and main-draw action.

WHAT ABOUT ENTOURAGES?

“A player coming with an entourage of five, six, seven, eight is not something that’s in the plan,” Allaster told the AP. Djokovic called that policy “simply unthinkable, because you need a tennis coach, fitness trainer, then a physiotherapist; a great team of people.” Dan Evans, who is ranked 28th, disagreed, saying having a one-person-per-player restriction is not “such a big deal.” “Not everyone’s traveling with physios and fitness trainers like Novak said,” Evans told the BBC, “so I think his argument there is not really valid for the rest of the draw.”

HOW WOULD HEALTH BE PROTECTED?

Players would need to prove they had tested negative for COVID-19 before traveling on charter flights the USTA would organize from a handful of cities. There would likely be daily health questionnaires and temperature checks, along with occasional nasal, saliva or antibody testing; Djokovic said he was told there would be two or three tests per week. Djokovic said players would not be allowed to go into Manhattan; Allaster spoke about “centralized” housing.

WILL THERE BE FORMAT CHANGES?

The USTA won’t change the scoring system — some unsanctioned exhibitions taking place have used a first-to-4-games format — and wouldn’t shorten men’s matches to best-of-three-sets unless players lobbied for that. But it’s possible the total number of events — which usually includes qualifying, doubles, juniors and wheelchair tennis — could be reduced.

Alcaraz loses to Goffin in 1st match as No. 1

Getty Images
1 Comment

ASTANA, Kazakhstan — Carlos Alcaraz’s first match as the No. 1-ranked player ended with a straight-set loss to David Goffin at the Astana Open.

The 19-year-old Spaniard lost 7-5, 6-3 in his first tour match since winning the U.S. Open and capturing the No. 1 ranking.

“David was playing really, really well. To come back to competition is never easy,” Alcaraz said. “It’s really tough for me, for my confidence.”

Alcaraz came from 5-2 down to level the first set at 5-5, only to be broken again by his Belgian opponent.

“When you play against the World No. 1 on a big stage, big crowd, the fire inside gives you so much power to play your best tennis because you don’t have any choice,” Goffin said. “You have to fight and give your best and that was the case today.”

Second-seeded Daniil Medvedev and No. 3-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas both avoided similar upsets. Medvedev beat Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain 6-3, 6-1 and Tsitsipas ousted Kazakhstan’s Mikhail Kukushkin 6-3. 6-4.

Kasatkina knocks out Raducanu at Agel Open

Getty Images
1 Comment

OSTRAVA, Czech Republic — Fifth-seeded Daria Kasatkina defeated 2021 U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu 7-5, 6-4 to advance to the second round of the Agel Open.

Kasatkina was playing her first match since losing in the first round of the U.S. Open and will next face Ekaterina Alexandrova.

Sixth-seeded Belinda Bencic of Switzerland rallied to eliminate former top-five player Eugenie Bouchard of Canada 6-7 (7), 6-1, while Aliaksandra Sasnovich upset eighth-seeded Jelena Ostapenko 6-2, 6-2.

American qualifiers Alycia Parks and Catherine McNally both advanced. Parks upset Czech Karolina Pliskova 6-0, 7-6 (3) and McNally eased past Anna Blinkova 6-1, 6-2 at the indoor hardcourt event in the Czech eastern city of Ostrava.