James Blake has told The Tennis Podcast that he fears for the viability of the US Open, with the event due to begin behind closed doors at the end of the month.
Blake, a former World No.4 and now Tournament Director of the Miami Open, one of the biggest events outside of the Grand Slams, said: “it is difficult to see a scenario where it really does go well for the US Open.”
“I hope it does go well, and I know that there are really bright, ambitious people working on the US Open, but I feel there are so many things that can go wrong when you have that many people at one event,” Blake told The Tennis Podcast.
“I just think it’s going to be pretty difficult. Having no crowd will make it interesting as it will show the mental strength of the players. What I’m worried about the most is the locker-room situation, with so many players going in and out, and if there’s one player that ends up having Covid-19, given how contagious it is, it could infect half the tournament. That could be really dangerous, and could look really bad for the entire tour.
“With the quarantining aspect of it, how do you police that? Given how little we know about the virus still, there aren’t a lot of long-term studies so far, I would be pretty anxious if I was the one putting on the event. I think the players will be less worried, but as a Tournament Director I would be very, very nervous.”
The United States Tennis Association has moved the lead-up Cincinnati tournament to New York, where coronavirus cases are now relatively few, to create a month-long bubble in which the US Open can also be played. World No.1 Ash Barty has withdrawn from the event because of the risks involved, as has her compatriot Nick Kyrgios. Others, such as 2018 champion Naomi Osaka and Andy Murray, have said that they intend to play. The first Tour matches in five months were played yesterday in Palermo.
In an in-depth interview, Blake also told The Tennis Podcast how encouraged he is about the emergence of Osaka and Coco Gauff as voices in society as well as sport, and why he thinks male players need to open their minds to the combined power of a sport played by both men and women.
The Tennis Podcast is produced weekly year-round, daily at the Grand Slams (with Tennis Re-Lived running in the absence of any live tennis), and is crowdfunded by listeners every December. Subscribe free to The Tennis Podcast.