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Novak Djokovic
Image: picture-alliance/Photoshot/B. Xuefei

Opinion: US Open the most questionable tennis tournament

Marko Langer
August 29, 2020

Finally, grand slam tennis is back. But at what cost? This year’s tournament is nothing more than an experiment for the benefit of the organizers and it also carries a risk for players, argues DW’s Marko Langer.

https://p.dw.com/p/3hjz7

Let’s start with the positives. The masterminds at the United States Tennis Association (USTA) have managed to plan two tournaments in one place. Ahead of the US Open, New York will also host a tournament which was supposed to be held in Cincinnati, thus saving the players the trip halfway across the US.

But when it comes to the good news, that’s about it. Because even if the 350 players get through the competition without being infected with coronavirus, almost all of them will then have to board planes, mostly to Europe, especially with the French Open less than a month away.

DW's Marko Langer
DW's Marko Langer Image: Sarah Ehrlenbruch

Even in normal times, this would be quite the trip for athletes. First the US, then Europe, first hard court, then clay. But our times aren’t normal, and neither is the decision making of those responsible in tennis. Never before has it been clearer that the players’ associations, the ATP and WTA, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and the organizers of the big Grand Slam tournaments are not able to reshape their own sport and make it fit for the future. The only thing that matters is money. The various media outlets are interested in broadcasting games, adverts are being sold, and sponsors are happy. And COVID19? Well…

Djokovic finally masks up

Though some have had doubts, most tennis players in New York will probably say how happy they are to return to action, despite the Arthur Ashe Stadium sitting empty. They'll also likely say they're happy to following tennis’ seven-page hygiene concept. According to the plan, players will get tested for the coronavirus at the Marriott Hotel, one of the locations chosen to host the athletes.

But the fact that Novak Djokovic is the man who will not stay with the others, leaves me speechless. Djokovic will stay at a house he's renting on the outskirts of New York, from which he will be taken to the compound where the tennis takes place. Surely though, even the “Joker” will be tested like anybody else and will have to wear his mask.

After the debacle of his Adria Tour, where social distancing rules were nowhere to be seen and a long list of players caught the virus, including Djokovic and his wife, one could have hoped for more reasonable behavior this time round. He's showing once again that, as much as he's a top player, he doesn’t have what it takes to fulfill his role as the president of the ATP Players’ Council. Djokovic called the reaction to his tournament a witchhunt but Grigor Dimotrov, a fellow tennis player robbed of his fitness by the virus, will not be able to play top-level tennis for the foreseeable future. It's a serious matter.

Some stars stay home

It would have been interesting to hear Roger Federer’s stance on the matter, but a knee injury means he’ll stay in Switzerland. Rafael Nadal will also stay in Europe, and so will Simona Halep. Top German professionals such as Angelique Kerber and Alexander Zverev, however, will compete in New York. Here's hoping they stay healthy. This also applies to the players below the top level, and to those having to give up on participating due to being tested positive for the virus.

The 2020 US Open is the world’s most questionable tournament. The German Tennis Association (DTB) has done well to only organize regional tournaments while The All-England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club AELTC has done even better to cancel this year’s Wimbledon. New York's organizers deserve no such praise.

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