NEW YORK (CBSNewYork)- The 2020 US Open, like all sporting events this year, will look quite different as fans will not be able to attend the tournament as a matter of precaution and safety in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The atmosphere at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, Queens is usually a raucous one regardless of whether it’s the opening rounds or the tournament final. This year, that won’t be the case, and it’s just one of the challenges that past President, Chairperson and CEO of the USTA, Katrina Adams, notes that the tournament will face this year.
“You cannot duplicate the atmosphere of 23,000 rowdy New York fans. So that will be a challenging part,” said Adams in an interview with CBS Local’s Ryan Mayer. “One of the most exciting things as a player is to be able to play under the lights at Arthur Ashe Stadium in front of a packed house. That will not be the experience for 2020”
That said, fans not being in attendance won’t affect players motivation. As Adams says, they are still competing for a Grand Slam title, one of the most prestigious tournaments in the sport.
“I’m sure the players will find a way to be motivated and have a spirited attitude about competing. Because at the end of the day, they’re competing for a Grand Slam title and that’s the only motivation they need to get them through their matches,” said Adams.
Adams, who is currently serving as an analyst for World TeamTennis and a panelist for We Need To Talk on CBS Sports Network, was involved in putting on several editions of the tournament in her time at the head of the USTA. It’s and event that she says, while fun and exciting, is very challenging to put together in normal circumstances. This year, for Chief of Professional Tennis and Tournament Director Stacey Allaster, that challenge is even larger. And it’s all being down in a historic moment with Allaster serving as the first female tournament director of not just the US Open, but any Grand Slam.
“This year, you have Stacey Allaster who is not only the Chief of Professional Tennis but will be the tournament director, the first female tournament director of the US Open, as well as the first female tournament director of any Grand Slam. So, I’m excited for her but boy what a challenging year for her to take that lead. There are so many moving parts that are involved in putting together a Grand Slam event,” said Adams. “And the US Open is probably one of the toughest in the environment of New York City and dealing with all of the politics that we have and making sure that the players are taken care of. For 2020, our focus is on creating that bubble for the players to make sure that they are in a safe and healthy environment. To make sure they have everything they need so that they don’t feel tempted to go outside of the bubble.”
The “bubble” environment is one that most sports in the United States are employing at this point in response to the pandemic. For the US Open, things are a bit more tricky with players coming in from all over the world to compete. But, the USTA has set strict safety measures and testing/temperature check guidelines in hopes of providing as safe an environment as possible.
The Association is also holding the Western & Southern Open in New York as well in the week prior to the US Open in order to limit the amount of travel necessary for players involved in both. For Adams, that’s all that the Association can try to do, provide as safe an environment as possible.
“For 2020 it’s a new experience for all of us and we’re just hoping we can continue to keep our numbers low with the virus here in the New York Tri-State area and make sure we can have a safe and healthy and competitive US Open,” said Adams.