The world of professional tennis is in chaos right now.
The US Open grand slam, held over two weeks, is due to start on August 31. It’s going to be a very strange affair. No player entourages, definitely no ballboys handling players’ towels and, most significantly, no spectators.
Players feed off the crowds. It’s a gladiatorial sport which relies on that interaction between players and spectators. Cheers, whistles, oohs and ahhs and participants feeding off the crowds are what give the sport its flavour.
Players will also be isolated at their hotels. It sounds like it’s going to be a rather miserable tournament for them. With Covid-19 still rampant in the US, the European Union has just come to the decision that players will be required to quarantine for at least 14 days if they go to Europe after the event, which would mean they will definitely not be allowed to play in the French Open, due to be held from September 27.
One must assume that even players who lose early on in the US event won’t be permitted to enter, but who knows, although it’s unlikely that those players would wish to switch from the US Open hardcourts to the European clay without adequate preparation.
Roger Federer is out after surgery. Rafael Nadal, the holder, is highly unlikely to play having stated that he has decided to play at the Madrid Open, a clay court tournament leading up to his beloved Roland Garros. In fact, he is already practising on the clay which is a pretty good indicator.
Novak Djokovic, who has had Covid-19, has not come to a decision as to whether he will play. He is unhappy about players being permitted only one travelling companion and will have to choose between his coach, nutritionist, physio, and family. He’ll get a taste of what it’s like for the lesser players who can only afford to travel with a coach.
It’ll be interesting to see who else out of the top players will be bowing out of the tournament. Wouldn’t it look strange on the trophy if, say, a player ranked below 50 were to win?
In the women’s event, top players such as former world No 1 Angelique Kerber have also expressed doubts about entering the tournament.
Back in 1973, the “Wimbledon Boycott Year” took place. The top 81 male players refused to play, in protest at the Yugoslav, Nikki Pilic, being suspended for refusing to play Davis Cup against New Zealand.
The history books show that the little-known Czech, Jan Kodes, won that year against the Russian player, Alex Metreveli. There is no “boycott year” in brackets after his name on the cup. Neither will “Covid-19” will be engraved in brackets on the trophy after the US Open winner’s name, if, indeed, the tournament actually takes place.
The Citi Open, the Washington warm-up tournament to the US Open, has just been cancelled which now throws the Slam into doubt.
We live in interesting times.