As the tennis tours laid out their road maps on Wednesday for a return to play in August, Serena Williams confirmed her desire to be a major part of those comeback plans and to play in this year’s United States Open.
“Ultimately I really cannot wait to return to New York and play,” she said in a video message. “I feel like the U.S.T.A. is going to do a really good job of ensuring everything is amazing and everything is perfect and everyone is safe.”
Her announcement was welcome news for the Open, a Grand Slam that is unlikely to draw a full-strength field this year without spectators on site and with extraordinary health and safety measures because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’ll certainly miss the fans, don’t get me wrong,” said Williams, still ranked No. 9 in singles at age 38. “Just being out there in the New York crowd, hearing everyone cheer — I’ll miss that, getting me through some of those tough matches.”
Williams, of course, has not always heard cheers at the U.S.T.A. Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Her relationship with the tournament where she has won six of her 23 major singles titles has been full of soaring high notes but also discordant passages, like the rancorous 2018 singles final in which she lost to the upstart Naomi Osaka after clashing with the chair umpire, Carlos Ramos, and receiving three code violations.
Williams’s announcement was a part of a United States Tennis Association videoconference on Wednesday to formally announce plans for this year’s tournament, which has been confirmed to be held from Aug. 31 to Sept. 13 and is in undeniable need of star power.
Roger Federer is out because of knee surgery, and the top two singles players on the men’s and women’s tours — Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Ashleigh Barty and Simona Halep — all have expressed initial reluctance to commit.
“I would be surprised if it’s 100 percent,” Steve Simon, head of the WTA Tour, said of the women’s field. “I think their positions will evolve based on what’s happening in the world. Some will be comfortable with it; some will not. No one is forcing anyone to play.”
But an aging Williams trying to tie Margaret Court’s record 24 Grand Slam singles titles remains an irresistible story line at the U.S. Open. And the U.S.T.A.’s increasingly flexible approach to permitting players to travel to New York with more than one team member and stay in private housing has certainly made it easier to commit for Williams, who typically travels with her family, including her daughter, Olympia, and her staff.
John Isner, the top-ranked American men’s player in singles at No. 21, also is intent on playing. “I think it’s important for sport to get back and this is a good opportunity to get tennis back in the mainstream,” he said in a text message.
Williams has played just two WTA tournaments since losing in last year’s U.S. Open final to another youngster, Bianca Andreescu of Canada. But Williams is back in training, and Stacey Allaster, the U.S. Open’s new tournament director, confirmed on Wednesday that Williams had even had a court with the Open’s new hardcourt surface constructed at her Florida home.
A perquisite for a star? Certainly, but it is not unheard-of for leading players to train in private on a Grand Slam surface. Martina Hingis, the former No. 1, had a Rebound Ace hardcourt installed at her home in Switzerland during her heyday to prepare for the Australian Open.
The men’s and women’s tours have been on hiatus since mid-March because of the pandemic. Though tennis is particularly suited to social distancing with a net separating players, the global nature of the professional tours is a major obstacle. Though no schedule can be definite at this anxious stage, both tours announced their comeback plans on Wednesday.
The women’s tour is set to resume on Aug. 3 with a clay-court event in Palermo, Italy, followed by potential tournaments in Prague and Washington. Then it would continue to the doubleheader in New York with the transplanted Western & Southern Open preceding the U.S. Open from Aug. 21 to 28.
The men’s tour would resume with the Citi Open in Washington on Aug. 14 with the New York doubleheader to follow.
After the U.S. Open, both tours would head to Europe for the postponed clay-court season with combined events in Madrid and Rome and then the French Open, a Grand Slam tournament that was rescheduled from late May to Sept. 27 to Oct. 11.
Unlike the U.S. Open, the Madrid Open and French Open could be played with spectators. Mark Ein, who owns the Citi Open in Washington, has also not ruled out having a restricted number of fans. He said the tournament would undoubtedly operate at a loss this year, but maintained that it was worth the sacrifice.
“I have often asked myself, ‘Why are we doing this?’” he said. “I just think it’s been such a hard year in our world and our community. I think this is something people will look forward to. It’s a real honor to have this opportunity, but it’s also a big responsibility.”
The Coronavirus Outbreak
Frequently Asked Questions and Advice
Updated June 16, 2020
I’ve heard about a treatment called dexamethasone. Does it work?
The steroid, dexamethasone, is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in severely ill patients, according to scientists in Britain. The drug appears to reduce inflammation caused by the immune system, protecting the tissues. In the study, dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of patients on oxygen by one-fifth.
What is pandemic paid leave?
The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.
Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?
So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.
What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?
Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.
How does blood type influence coronavirus?
A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.
How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?
The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.
Will protests set off a second viral wave of coronavirus?
Mass protests against police brutality that have brought thousands of people onto the streets in cities across America are raising the specter of new coronavirus outbreaks, prompting political leaders, physicians and public health experts to warn that the crowds could cause a surge in cases. While many political leaders affirmed the right of protesters to express themselves, they urged the demonstrators to wear face masks and maintain social distancing, both to protect themselves and to prevent further community spread of the virus. Some infectious disease experts were reassured by the fact that the protests were held outdoors, saying the open air settings could mitigate the risk of transmission.
My state is reopening. Is it safe to go out?
States are reopening bit by bit. This means that more public spaces are available for use and more and more businesses are being allowed to open again. The federal government is largely leaving the decision up to states, and some state leaders are leaving the decision up to local authorities. Even if you aren’t being told to stay at home, it’s still a good idea to limit trips outside and your interaction with other people.
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.
How can I protect myself while flying?
If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)
How do I take my temperature?
Taking one’s temperature to look for signs of fever is not as easy as it sounds, as “normal” temperature numbers can vary, but generally, keep an eye out for a temperature of 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. If you don’t have a thermometer (they can be pricey these days), there are other ways to figure out if you have a fever, or are at risk of Covid-19 complications.
Should I wear a mask?
The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.
What should I do if I feel sick?
If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.
How do I get tested?
If you’re sick and you think you’ve been exposed to the new coronavirus, the C.D.C. recommends that you call your healthcare provider and explain your symptoms and fears. They will decide if you need to be tested. Keep in mind that there’s a chance — because of a lack of testing kits or because you’re asymptomatic, for instance — you won’t be able to get tested.
Ein said the Citi Open, like the U.S.T.A. in New York, would create a controlled environment for players and staff with frequent testing and limited numbers of people permitted on site to reduce the risk of infection. Ein said players would travel independently from Washington to New York, just as international players are expected to arrive independently in the United States.
U.S. Open officials indicated that instead of using tracking or security measures they are counting on players being judicious enough not to venture outside the bubble and jeopardize the health of others involved in the tournament.
“If they do become infected, the way the inner bubble is, they will not be in physical contact with any of the other players,” Brian Hainline, a U.S.T.A. vice president, said of the planned social distancing measures. “If someone does test positive during the tournament, we’re confident that disease won’t spread to the other players because of how everything has been worked out and modeled.”
Both tours have struck deals with tournaments to reduce prize money this season to compensate for the expected loss of revenues from ticket sales and sponsorships. Simon said the reductions on the WTA Tour ranged from 18 percent for low-level international events to more than 32 percent for top-tier Premier Mandatory events like Madrid. The men’s tour will flip that model, with its Masters 1000 events making smaller prize money reductions proportionally than lower-tier events.
Simon said if the provisional schedule holds true, the WTA Tour will have managed to play about “60 percent” of its original 2020 calendar.
Both tours are also intent on preserving their tour finals — the ATP’s in London and the WTA’s in Shenzhen, China — which represent a major chunk of their revenue.
“If we can play the finals this year, we’ll be in a much better position than if we don’t,” Simon said. “But either way, like everybody else, we’ve been hurt this year significantly.”
Source: Tennis - nytimes.com