There won’t be any record crowds attending the 2020 United States Open this year. The United States Tennis Association – the host of the event – will hold this year’s tournament without any spectators, according to a source at the USTA.
While fans will not be in attendance for the 2020 US Open, it will still be taking place as scheduled from August 31 to September 13, according to the source. All relevant third parties have agreed to these terms, and the source expects several high-level USTA executives – including CEO Mike Dowse and President Patrick Galbraith – to make a formal announcement Wednesday morning.
The New York Times was the first to report on the status of this year’s US Open. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo confirmed via Twitter on June 16 that the tournament will be held as scheduled without fans.
“The USTA will take extraordinary precautions to protect players and staff, including robust testing, additional cleaning, extra locker room space, and dedicated housing & transportation,” Gov. Cuomo tweeted.
This news comes as numerous high-profile tennis stars – from Novak Djokovic to Rafael Nadal – have voiced their concerns around the USTA planning to hold this year’s US Open. Djokovic, the #1 player in the world, recently said that participating in the US Open under its current rules and regulations would be an impossible task.
Proposals aimed to get the tournament started include players needing to prove that they tested negative for COVID-19 before traveling on USTA-organized chartered flights as well as daily health questionnaires, temperature checks, and occasional nasal, saliva, and antibody testing. Others include restricting players to a tournament hotel located outside of Manhattan, imposing a limit of one support team member per player, eliminating US Open singles qualifying events, and reducing the doubles draw from 64 to 24 teams.
The source was unable to say whether Djokovic or Nadal will sign onto play in this year’s US Open. Nadal’s inclusion is highly questionable, as the French Open – which he has won a record 12 times – will be running from September 20 to October 4 of this year, just one week following the conclusion of the US Open men’s final.
However, the source says that the USTA is confident that six-time champion Serena Williams will be playing this year. One player who already has stepped out of the US Open is five-time winner Roger Federer, who recently shut down his 2020 season due to a setback from rehabbing a knee injury he suffered earlier in the year. Potentially joining Federer is 2019 Wimbledon women’s single’s champion Simona Halep, who, according to tennis writer Ben Rothenberg, is highly unlikely to play in the US Open under its current parameters.
The Billie Jean King National Tennis Center will also be responsible for holding the 2020 Western and Southern Open, which was scheduled to be played at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason, Oh., from August 15 to 23 before the tournament was relocated to the USTA.
It has been a whirlwind few weeks for the USTA, which recently announced that it would be reducing its staff by 20% and closing its New York office in White Plains to ensure that the US Open will be held this year.
Not having fans at its flagship event will hinder the USTA even further, as the $400 million in revenue from the US Open accounts for more than 80% of the governing body’s annual revenue.
Attendance is a crucial component of that revenue and makes up most of the organization’s $161 million in ticket revenue. The 2019 US Open set an all-time attendance record with 737,872 fans visiting the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center during the two weeks of the main draw. Arthur Ashe Stadium, the USTA’s main stadium as well as the largest one in tennis, sold out 23 of 24 sessions.
Typically, the US Open is the fourth and final Grand Slam tournament for men’s and women’s tennis. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, both the ATP and WTA Tour have been shut down since early March, with the 2020 Citi Open in Washington, D.C. from August 3 to 9 expected to mark the official return of professional tennis. Wimbledon, both the oldest and arguably most famous of tennis’s major events, was canceled for the first time since 1945.