US Open organisers said on Thursday they are planning for the Grand Slam event to go ahead as scheduled and that an event without spectators is “highly unlikely”. United States Tennis Association chief executive Mike Dowse said nothing “is off the table” and a final decision on the fate of the event would come in June but having fans attend the event is still their goal. “Playing without spectators, we are not taking anything off the table. But right now that’s a highly unlikely scenario,” said Dowse.
“That’s not in the spirit of celebration of tennis.”
Dowse’s comments come as the National Tennis center’s indoor courts in New York were being used as a makeshift hospital facility to treat those affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
While the indoor tennis courts have been turned into a hospital zone, the Louis Armstrong Stadium has been transformed into a meal assembly area for patients, volunteers and area schoolkids.
New York remains the hardest-hit area in America with over 31,000 dead, including 10,800 in New York City.
More than 640,000 Americans have been infected with COVID-19.
Dowse said they are in contact with a half dozen doctors and are going to be seeking their advice in making the next moves.
“We’re very fortunate that we’re the fourth Grand Slam to go, so time is on our side at this point,” Dowse said. “Obviously our ambition is to run the tournament.
“Having said that, it won’t be the driving factor. The driving factor will be the health and well being of the players, the fans and our staff.”
Dowse said they have some time to seek the advice of medical experts before they make their final decision.
“We are looking at time frame of June to make that decision. We will approach it through a medical advisory group. We have five or six doctors we are consulting with. Based on that information we will make the decision if it is safe to play the tournament or not,” he said.
The US Open is now the next major tournament on the schedule from August 31-September 13, with Wimbledon having been cancelled and the French Open postponed to a September 20 start on the red clay in Paris.