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The imminent confirmation of the US Open as the next grand-slam event of 2020 has been criticised by Nick Kyrgios, the outspoken Australian, who said it was “selfish” to stage a tournament when there are still travel restrictions from certain countries.
There are also likely to be two build-up events: the Citi Open in Washington and the Western and Southern Open, which is being moved from its usual home in Cincinnati to New York.
But Kyrgios posted a message on Twitter on Monday evening decrying the decision. “Smh,” he said, using the shorthand for “shaking my head”.
“People that live in the US of course are pushing [for] the Open to go ahead. Selfish.’ I’ll get my hazmat suit ready for when I travel from Australia and then have to quarantine for two weeks on my return.”
Australia requires all passengers from overseas to spend two weeks in quarantine before they can move around freely.
If Kyrgios wanted to play a full set of autumn tournaments, however, he could fly from New York to Europe, where the Madrid Open and Rome Open are now scheduled to take place between the US Open and the rescheduled French Open on Sept 27.
This has not the first time that Kyrgios has been caustic about the idea of tennis trying to return in this turbulent summer. Last week, he posted another message saying “The ATP is trying to make the US Open go ahead. Selfish with everything going on at the moment. Obviously Covid, but also with the riots, together we need to overcome these challenges before tennis returns in my opinion.”
Interestingly, Kyrgios was announced last month – alongside Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev – as part of the field for an exhibition tournament in Berlin in mid-July. If he presses ahead with that booking, he will leave himself open to accusations of hypocrisy.
While his concern is understandable, the counter-argument is that thousands of people rely on tennis for their income.
The United States Tennis Association was forced to lay off 130 people last week, and there would certainly be more job losses if the US Open – which supplies 80 per cent of the USTA’s annual income – were not to take place. Even without ticket revenue, the TV rights income will help stave off the worst-case scenario.
Clearly, this is far from being an ideal situation. The likelihood is that there will only be space for 24 doubles teams in each draw, rather than the usual 64. As a result, Luke Bambridge – the British doubles player who reached the US Open quarter-finals last year – will lose his ranking points without even being able to defend them. Players from South America, where the virus is still prevalent, may also struggle with their transport arrangements.
The Big Three men have all expressed reservations about the idea of the US Open being staged, as have the top two women – Ashleigh Barty and Simona Halep. But the well-connected American reporter Jon Wertheim tweeted on Wednesday that he expects Serena Williams to participate, adding that this may have had an effect on the USTA’s decision to press ahead.
Another American player, world No51 Danielle Collins, was critical last week of Novak Djokovic’s reluctance to play, arguing that he was making too much out of proposed tournament regulations limiting each player to just a single support staff member. “For those of us (most tennis players) who don’t have an entourage, we actually need to start working again,” said Collins.
Meanwhile Noah Rubin, another lower-ranked American player, joined the chorus yesterday. Speaking on the Behind the Racquet podcast, Rubin expressed his anger that Djokovic had not even bothered to attend last Wednesday’s USTA video conference about the US Open.
“These pictures of him playing soccer have surfaced. You can make time for that but you can’t get on a Zoom call for 30 seconds?" Rubin said of Djokovic, who is not only the world No1 but also the president of the ATP player council.
“If you wanna look out for yourself, look out for yourself, this sport was built for that. But then don’t put yourself in a situation where others rely on you. If I can’t get in touch with you, if you aren’t helping me out, if you can’t get on a f---ing Zoom call, what is the point of all of this?
“The fact that we’re giving you a tournament with still 95 percent of the prize money … and you’re complaining that the physios at the ATP might not be good enough for your two weeks there? Like shut the f--- up. Just understand what is actually taking place.”