US and French Opens to allow spectators

The decision by the USTA and FFT to allow a limited number of spectators to their respective events comes as a bit of a surprise bearing in mind the disastrous Adria Tour mini-series where the Covid-19 spiked followed the disregard of safety protocols.

Once we start to let any number of fans in, say, 10% capacity, it impacts our ability to leverage the grounds and ensure adequate social distancing, Lew Sherr

As regards the US Open which is due to start on August 31st, the organisers are intending to invite some front-line workers to attend the event, which even at this late stage, the Covid-19 pandemic could still force it to be abandoned.

Lew Sherr, chief revenue officer of the USTA, told ESPN: “If New York is still looking great in a month and a half, we may act opportunistically.

“You might see us invite some number of frontal-line workers, health care workers and their families. It’s a possibility that we’ve talked about, but nobody has put pencil to paper on it. We’ve looked at those other events, as well as golf and NASCAR and everything else.

“It’s different if you’re on one court in West Virginia [WTT] or Atlanta with a limited player field. They can let a few hundred people in as general admission, but for us, that model just doesn’t work.”

However there is no likelihood of fans joining them as the organisers would find it difficult to implement social distancing guidelines.

“Once we start to let any number of fans in, say, 10% capacity, it impacts our ability to leverage the grounds and ensure adequate social distancing,” Sherr continued. “Perhaps most important, there would be no way to keep fans and players separate on an open campus.

“The USTA wants almost all of the National Tennis Center site to be open to players so they don’t have to be sequestered in nearby hotels on free days or before and after they play.”

The professional men’s and women’s tennis tour is set to resume in early August. So far, several top players have expressed their concerns about travelling to the United States to play the event.

President of FFT (French Tennis Federation) Bernard Giudicelli and his wife

Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Meanwhile the French Open, which was scheduled for May but postponed to late September, are taking a different approach and will be allowing spectators to take up 60% of Roland Garros capacity.

“The number of spectators allowed inside the stadium will be 50% to 60% of its usual capacity, allowing us to ensure the barrier measures are respected,” an FFT statement said reflecting the fact that the Covid-19 outbreak is fast subsiding in Europe.

Up to 20,000 spectators are now likely to attend reducing to about 10,000 over the later stages.

Masks will be mandatory for people who are inside the grounds but only recommended outside the site. In addition no more than four people will be allowed to sit together in one group with one chair left empty between groups in the same row. Hand sanitizers will also be widely available.

“We went for the responsible option,” FFT president Bernard Giudicelli said, adding: “Should the situation evolve in the right direction, new tickets would be available in September.”

Tickets will go on sale on July 16 for the September 27-October Oct. 11 tournament.



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