Questions on how best to restart the pro tours are keeping administrators up late at night, with travel restrictions in place in many countries, and the coronavirus prevailing in society worldwide.
Our country's on fire. And, more than that, this pandemic isn't even close to being solved or cured, and now, with all the protests and the riots going on, people are yelling and screaming, and there's tear gas, which is making them tear up, cough and New York is already a hotspot. I mean, I'm watching my city burn. I'm watching what's happening to New York, so, the idea that the US Open can happen in just a couple of months seems almost like it's bad form. Mary Carillo
Eyes are fixed on the US Open, due to be held in early September, but mastering the logistics involved could well prevent this from happening after the tours cancelled all events until the end of July, and a decision on August’s North American hard-court swing now expected in mid-June.
Highly respected American tennis analyst Mary Carillo told TSN earlier in the week that she is pessimistic about the chances of the US Open and the French Open, to be held two weeks later, being held at all this year.
“I’ll be very surprised if the French Open gets held,” said Carillo, a Tennis Channel and NBC analyst. “I’ll be surprised if the US Open goes forward.
“They’ve already laid out protocols that they think can help in staging it without fans, but there are so many provisos.
“I’m a chick from Queen’s. I love the US Open. I mean, this is what I grew up loving it, and it’s what made me want to become a professional tennis player, but it seems like what the USTA is hoping for is a very desperate thing.”
In May, Nadal struck a similarly pessimistic tone in interviews with Spanish newspapers, noting the current season, ‘has been practically lost … I would sign up to be ready for 2021’.
“I agree more with Rafa than any of the other players I’ve been listening to,” Carillo said, while pointing out that many of her colleagues are taking a different view.
“Everyone’s optimistic and I’m looking at it and saying, ‘Guys, first of all, our country’s on fire. And, more than that, this pandemic isn’t even close to being solved or cured’, and now, with all the protests and the riots going on, people are yelling and screaming, and there’s tear gas, which is making them tear up, cough and New York is already a hotspot.
“I mean, I’m watching my city burn. I’m watching what’s happening to New York, so, the idea that the US Open can happen in just a couple of months seems almost like it’s bad form.”
World No 3 Karolina Pliskova would rather see the US Open going ahead without fans than not at all, saying the women players are used to playing in near-empty-stadiums.
“No matter how or what the conditions, it’s better to play some matches than not play anything,” Pliskova said recently in Prague.
“If you have the chance to play a prime-time match, so there’s a lot of people and the atmosphere is great, it’s much better.
“But we can have matches where there is nobody, so I think it’s not that it would never happen. If you play at 1am, there’s not many people anyway.”
Some players have voiced their discomfort with the idea of playing major tournaments without fans, including Roger Federer, who said it would be ‘difficult’ for him.
Pliskova pointed out that the 20-time Grand Slam champion had probably rarely played in a near-empty stadium in the way she and some of her female peers had because of matches being scheduled outside of prime-time slots.
“Maybe Roger, he never experienced that, but I think me and the girls overall have had experience of nobody [in the stands]. I know for Roger, for sure, it has to be different thinking than for me, but I would definitely choose to play.”
During her Skype call with TSN, Carillo shared her insight on what tennis events may look like without fans.
“The Australian Open is already planning on only allowing people from that region to come and it will be a less crowded situation….[Petra] Kvitova, the two-time Wimbledon champion, has already said, ‘I can’t imagine playing without fans.’
“Roger Federer has said the same thing. So, that’s another big discussion point, if these top players are wary not only in terms of safety, but if they don’t think it will feel like a major event, a grand slam tournament, and if they decide not to play, is it still a major?
“Does it still have the same heft? You can play without fans, I understand that, but it would certainly degrade the atmosphere.
“One of the things thrown out the other day was the idea that maybe the men shouldn’t play three out of five [sets] at the US Open and Paris and keep it to two out of three, because they haven’t been, obviously, in match mode for so long.
“You can do it, but my big question is, should you do it?
“You can try to make all kinds of accommodations in an effort for safety. You can charter planes and take the temperatures, but the fact is there is no vaccine and the testing in New York is so bogus with so many people going untested.
“I understand that the TV rights are dictating the thinking at the USTA for the US Open.
“The French Open, let’s face it, they just put an incredible roof over [Stadium Court Philippe] Chatrier so they’re trying to pay that thing off.
“They’ve already invested so much money in the 2020 French Open that they want to get some of it back.
“Again, it’s not a question of, ‘Can they do it?’ For me, it’s should they do it?
“I’m elderly. I’m a grandmother. I’ve been through a lot and covered tennis for a long, long time and, at this stage in my life, safety has to come before anything.”
With official pro tennis in lockdown, a proliferation of non-sanctioned matches in a time of a uncontrollable pandemic and in the face of such civic anger leaves Carillo skeptical.
“One of the reasons why I have a hard time getting animated about the exhibition tennis that’s going on, and all the flashbacks, and revisiting of matches, is because there’s so much that’s happening right now in real time that is overwhelming in so many ways,” she said.
“I’m glad that tennis is speaking up, surely.
“And I’m glad that tennis is trying to come back this year, surely, but I don’t have the great enthusiasm that somebody like me is supposed to be having.
“Again, I’m elderly. What can I tell you, I just want a better world for my four-month-old granddaughter than the one she’s been born into. That’s all.”
Meanwhile, the ATP Tour is setting up a Zoom call with male players on 10 June to discuss the fate of the remaining season.
A decision on the summer hard-court season was expected to be made on Monday but ATP administrators have given themselves more time to determine on what to do next.
“Due to continued uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, we regret to announce our decision to extend the suspension of the Tour,” ATP Chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said on 15 May.
“Just like tennis fans, players and tournament hosts all over the world, we share in the disappointment the Tour continues to be affected in this way.
“We continue to assess all of our options in an effort to resume the Tour as soon as it is safe to do so, including the feasibility of rescheduling events later in the season.
“As ever, the health and well-being of the tennis community and wider public remains our top priority in every decision we make”.
Before the latest suspension, Gaudenzi added the ATP is focused on staging the biggest events if tennis returns this year, but it remains to be seen if pro tennis will be given green light to resume the season in early-August.