Tennis star Gabriela Dabrowski has issued a furious response after it was announced the US Open would go ahead in New York amid the coronavirus pandemic.
New York governor Andrew Cuomo said the United States Tennis Association (USTA) would take “extraordinary precautions” to protect players’ health and wrote on Twitter this morning: “The @usopen will be held in Queens, NY, without fans from August 31 to September 13.”
Wimbledon was cancelled and the French Open was postponed but the USTA believes its grand slam can proceed safely with the right safeguards in place.
They include robust testing, additional cleaning, extra locker room space, and dedicated housing and transportation.
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However, Dabrowski said the US Open has sacrificed too much of its authenticity to truly be called a grand slam this year, taking to social media to lay bare her problems with the tournament.
The Canadian is a doubles specialist, ranked No. 7 in the world, and raged against the USTA’s call to eliminate qualifying for lower-ranked players and shrink the doubles draw from 64 to 32 pairings, while at the same time axing mixed doubles.
“Not having a qualifying and a smaller doubles draw increase the lack of parity in tennis,” Dabrowski wrote as part of a lengthy note posted on social media. “We don’t want to disproportionately move the needle even further, creating a bigger gap between those at the top and those who need the income and opportunity for growth.
“The beauty of a slam is the story of the qualifier who battled through three tough matches to earn their spot in the main draw and get the upset. This story will not exist this year at the US Open.
“The beauty of a slam is the mental fortitude and skill it takes to win six doubles matches against the best players in the world, this will not happen.
“The beauty of a slam is having the opportunity to play mixed doubles, a unique aspect of tennis — where players can earn more money and take a crack at a slam title. This will not happen this year.
“For me, a slam isn’t a slam without qualifying, doubles, and mixed doubles. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth when so many players are against this event moving forward, and yet it is moving forward anyway.
“Something just doesn’t feel right here.
“I wish we could use this hiatus to explore new designs of how and where we play tennis, like some real out of the box thinking. But maybe we’re just not quite ready to do that.”
Dabrowski also questioned the reliability and effectiveness of the US Open’s proposed medical protocols, saying they give “the impression the health and safety of players are not the priority”.
“It is impossible to control and enforce a bubble situation where players only move from the hotel to the venue and back,” she said. “We don’t know who players will come into contact with and those that don’t obey put everyone else in the tournament at risk.”
Men’s world No. 1 Novak Djokovic and No. 2 Rafael Nadal have both expressed their unease about travelling to New York, the epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak in America, as have
Australian stars Nick Kyrgios and John Millman.
However other players have said the time is right to get back on the court. World No. 3 and 2016 US Open finalist Karolina Pliskova said she was “definitely flying” in for the tournament.
“I’ve been at home for six months now. It’s important to start. The sooner we start, the sooner we will play before an audience,” Pliskova said.
“If we stay home waiting for the ideal situation, we may wait forever. The tournament is better with fans but if the players like tennis, they should go.”
American Danielle Collins has also said while it may be easier for wealthy, top-ranked stars to skip the grand slam, players on the lower rungs can’t afford to miss tournaments because they need an income.