On Monday 31st August, the US Open will once again get underway at Flushing Meadows in New York. This will be the first major tennis event since the start of the global coronavirus pandemic in March.
One main talking point is the absence of several big names from this year’s line-up, namely Rafael Nadal and Bianca Andreescu, who were expected to be the defending men’s and women’s singles champions.
Nadal withdrew from the tournament over concerns about the coronavirus, while Andreescu claimed that the ongoing pandemic had compromised her ability to compete at the highest level. A reoccurring knee injury has also left multi-Grand Slam champion Roger Federer off the US Open entry list.
World No.1 Novak Djokovic hence has a golden opportunity to win yet another major, with Eurosport citing the Serbian as the firm favourite to lift the 2020 US Open trophy.
On the women’s side of the draw, six of the top ten have decided not to compete, including World No.1, Ashleigh Barty, and World No.2, Simona Halep. This leaves all-time Open Era singles champion Serena Williams in a strong position to see success once again at her home major.
However, the American will certainly not be without competition. Notably, World No.3. Karolina Pliskova and Australian Open winner, Sofia Kenin, will both be in action in New York.
Furthermore, Williams has had a tricky start to the hard court season, scraping past Dutch qualifier Arantxa Rus 7-6(6) 3-6 7-6(0) in the Second Round of the Western and Southern Open this week.
Major sacrifices have been made to allow the US Open spectacle to go ahead this year. Ongoing health concerns led to the decision to play the tournament behind closed doors. This means that the only way for fans to enjoy this year’s events will be on television, potentially risking a paradigm shift in the experience of the tournament for both players and spectators.
At the end of the day however, the pivotal factor determining viewing experience is the standard of tennis. Reports from ATP and WTA professionals suggest that the empty stadiums have not diminished their enthusiasm to get back to competition. Coco Gauff at an interview last week claimed that “it’s still tennis, the same court, the same balls, regardless if there’s fans or not.”
The US Open 2020 will also be the first Grand Slam tournament to replace human line judges with Hawk-Eye Live on 11 out of the 13 courts. The system uses recorded voices by human line judges for ‘out-calls’.
The coronavirus pandemic certainly means that 2020 will be an interesting year for the American major. Despite empty grounds and the absence of several big names however, the high level of tennis seen during ‘Cinci week’ means that there still are grounds for optimism.
Also, Brits in particular are excited to see the return of Andy Murray, who after two major hip surgeries is making his comeback on the Pro Circuit. The 33-year-old former World No. 1 will be competing in the US, just his second tournament in 10 months.
Image: Dysanovic via Creative Commons