The USTA is expanding its medical care to provide mental health support to players at the US Open following Naomi Osaka’s issues at the French Open earlier this year.
The issue of mental health awareness has been brought to the forefront over the course of the global pandemic, as many individuals, players included, have struggled with the stresses and emotions that have come as a result of COVID-19. Together with the multi-dimensional pressures within professional sport, this new reality highlighted the need to provide additional resources to support all aspects of athletes’ health, including their mental health and wellbeing. Stacey Allaster, Chief Executive, USTA, and US Open Tournament Director
The hard court major is offering players access to licensed mental health providers throughout the tournament, and will have quiet rooms available alongside other services.
“The USTA and US Open are always looking for ways to work collaboratively with the other Grand Slam events, ATP, WTA and ITF to provide the greatest level of support for our competitors,” said Mike Dowse, CEO and Executive Director, USTA.
“We recognise that ensuring the mental health of the players is an area that needed to be addressed, and we are taking formative steps to give athletes the necessary resources to compete at the highest level.”
The tournament’s medical care system is anchored by a partnership with Mount Sinai Health System and the leadership of Dr Alexis Colvin, Chief Medical Officer, US Open.
Spearheading the Mental Health Initiative will be Dr Brian Hainline, First Vice President, USTA; Dr. Claudia Reardon, an internationally recognised expert in sports psychiatry; Stacey Allaster, Chief Executive, USTA, and US Open Tournament Director; and Mardy Fish, captain of the US Davis Cup team.
Dr Hainline said the aim was to make mental health services ‘as readily available to athletes as services for a sprained ankle — and with no stigma attached’.
The USTA stated in its release that it believes the changes will help the athletes’ overall health and well-being while sending an important message to society about de-stigmatising mental health offerings.
Osaka, the reigning US Open champion, first brought mental health to the forefront when she withdrew from Roland Garros in May, days after announcing she would not speak to the media during the tournament.
She admitted to suffering long bouts of depression since her 2018 US Open victory, and experienced waves of anxiety before speaking to reporters.
The Japanese stepped away from the sport, withdrawing from Wimbledon to focus on her well-being.
Osaka returned for the Olympics, lighting the cauldron at the Opening Ceremony in Tokyo, but was eliminated from the singles tournament in the 3d round.
She has now dropped to No 3 in the WTA rankings and will try to defend her title at the US Open, which begins on Monday.
Ash Barty, ranked World No 1, is the favourite to win the title following her win at Wimbledon, while Aryna Sabalenka is the 2nd seed.
Serena Williams, however, will not be in the draw after announcing on Wednesday morning that she would take time away from tennis to continue healing a torn hamstring sustained at Wimbledon.
She was then joined on the sidelines later in the day by her sister Venus, who posted a video and message on social saying: “Not the best news from Serena and I today. I too am unable to play the US Open. It’s super, super, super disappointing.
“Having some issues with my leg all this summer and l just couldn’t work through it. Tried my best here in Chicago but i just was unable to figure out the equation. This time I just couldn’t make any miracles work.”
The 7-tIme Grand Slam champion is now 41 years old and received a wild-card to play in the US Open, which she won in 2000 and 2001.
Also out is Sofia Kenin after a positive Covid test, tweeting: “Recently, I tested positive for Covid-19. Fortunately I am vaccinated and thus my symptoms have been fairly mild.
“However I have continued to test positive and thus will not be able to compete at the US Open next week.
“I plan to spend the next several weeks getting healthy and preparing to play well this fall.
“Thank you all for supporting me. I want to wish all the players the best of luck in New York.”
The 22-year-old reached the 4th round of the 2020 US Open for her best-ever result in New York, adding to a season in which she won her first Grand Slam title in Melbourne and reached the final at a second in Paris.
The lone American in the Top 10 has been sidelined since a second-round loss to compatriot Madison Brengle at Wimbledon in early July, missing events in San Jose, Montreal and Cincinnati during the US Open Series due to a foot injury.
She also underwent an appendectomy in Australia in February.
Kenin, the current World No 5, joins the growing list of absentees from the New York major that includes Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and reigning champion Dominic Thiem.
Also withdrawing on Wednesday due to a right leg injury is former Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic of Canada.
The current World No 34 and former World No 3 has played just one match since the Miami Open in March.