Ash Barty and Rafael Nadal have added their voices to the growing concerns over re-starting the pro tours too early when many countries are still struggling with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
Every single player, from every part of the world, needs to have the chance to play the tournament. If not, in my opinion we can't play tennis. My feeling is that we need to wait a little bit more. We're playing a global sport, it's not the same as football. For me, the key is to find the medicine so that we can be sure to travel and compete without being scared of contracting the virus or bringing the virus home. Rafael Nadal
Barty, the World No 1, urged caution about resuming tennis too soon, saying she needed more information before committing to the US Open in August.
The Australian, who surged to the top of the rankings last year and has stayed there since, said it was not just her but her entire team she must consider in the wake of COVID-19.
“It’s exciting that tennis is being talked about again and things are moving in the right direction for us to start competing,” she told the Sydney Morning Herald on Friday.
“But I’d need to understand all of the information and advice from the WTA and the USTA before making a decision on the US events.”
The WTA and ATP schedules have been on ice since March with action not set to resume until the end of July at the earliest.
Wimbledon was cancelled for the first time since World War II, while the French Open has been shifted from May-June to September-October.
A decision about the US Open, played in New York, a hotbed for the virus, has yet to be made, but is still scheduled to begin on 31 August.
The pandemic has devastated New York but, remarkably, it has become a secondary story in the nation amid violent protests sparked by the death of George Floyd.
Barty added that she is concerned about travel restrictions for her support staff because, while players could be exempt from a 14-day quarantine period, it remains unclear whether this will also apply to their teams.
She added that the safety of her staff would be a critical part of her decision to either play or not play at Flushing Meadows.
“It’s not just me, it’s my team I have to consider,” she said.
On Thursday, Rafael Nadal insisted tennis should not start again ‘until the situation is completely safe’.
The World No 2, who has won 93 of his 95 matches at the French Open, said during a media teleconference organised by the French Tennis Federation (FFT): ”We need to send a clear message to society, we need to be responsible and set a positive example.”
The left-hander warned that organising a Grand Slam would require the coming together of some 600-700 people, including players, singles and doubles, men and women, coaches and tournament staff.
“Every single player, from every part of the world, needs to have the chance to play the tournament. If not, in my opinion we can’t play tennis,” he underlined.
The 34-year-old, who had earlier stated that he didn’t see the 2020 tennis season resuming, called for caution.
“My feeling is that we need to wait a little bit more. We’re playing a global sport, it’s not the same as football.
“For me, the key is to find the medicine so that we can be sure to travel and compete without being scared of contracting the virus or bringing the virus home.”
Asked if he would put his hand up, if players from one country couldn’t play because of the after-effects of the pandemic, he said: “Maybe we’ll come back, maybe I will play, but we’re not being 100 percent correct.
“I want to see my sport being 100 percent correct, especially in these circumstances.”
Nadal said he wasn’t aware of the FFT’s decision to push the French Open, a traditional May-starter, to the end of September, adding that he had only heard about the news minutes before the announcement.
The defending champion, who is looking for title No 13 at Roland Garros and a record-equalling 20th major title, said: “I admire the FFT that they are positive and want to move forward, but the situation is difficult to predict.”
Nadal adopted the same wait-and-watch approach for the US Open.
“If you told me to play the US Open today, I would say ‘no’,” said the Spaniard, who captured a fourth US Open and his 19th major in New York last year.
“In a few months, I don’t know. I hope so. We have to wait for people to return to normal life. And when it does, wait to see how the virus evolves.
“It’s very difficult for me to separate what the world is experiencing from my point of view on tennis, that’s why I was very pessimistic a few weeks ago.
“Hopefully it’s going to improve the right way, and I’m sure the people who organise the event, the USTA, want a safe event, same like the French federation.
“There’s nothing more important in this world than health and life. Today, we are not able to enjoy these two.” Nadal added, calling the situation in the US ‘ugly’.
The Spaniard said racism had no place in sport and life as a whole.
“All people who want a good world and a safe world are against racism and poverty and all the terrible stuff that is happening,” he said.
“When you see all these disasters on the streets, my feeling is it’s not the way to protest.
“I believe in people, where everybody is the same and there is equal rights and opportunities for all.
“We need to keep working to make this world a better place.”