Coronavirus pandemic

Halep piles on Open discontent

Hunkering down in NY hotel for a month 'won't work' at US Open for tennis world No. 2 and coach

Simona Halep reacts during a match against Serena Williams at the All England Lawn and Croquet Club on April 4, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS/USA TODAY SPORTS

NEW YORK • A difficult decision has became more daunting as American tennis officials, who remain hopeful of staging the US Open behind closed doors in late August, continue to run into stiff resistance from international tennis players.

Darren Cahill, the coach of Wimbledon champion Simona Halep, yesterday echoed the thoughts of world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, calling the enhanced health and safety protocols proposed by the organisers amid the coronavirus pandemic as unworkable.

Djokovic had said it would be "impossible" to play under the "extreme" rules that restrict players to their hotels with only one support staff, and Cahill agreed it was "incredibly difficult" for players.

"The restrictions are tough... I'm pretty sure that won't work for Simona," he said. "From Simona's point of view, you got to fly over from Romania, you need to spend four weeks in this one hotel in New York and you can only bring one person.

"Normally, you have a physio, a hitting partner, trainer and maybe a coach or two. You've got to basically stay in this bubble with only one person for three or four weeks, and you have to be professional and compete at the highest level.

"So now there are going to be a lot of players that have an issue with that for sure."

Halep added: "I definitely have strong concerns about going there with those conditions. Not only because we're in the middle of a global pandemic but also because of the risk of travel, potential quarantine and then the changes around the tournament.

"We are used to things operating very differently and it would not be an easy transition at all, particularly on our bodies.

"I know financially, the tournament and sponsors would like it to run and also that many players are out of jobs right now, but it's a very personal decision we have to make.

"It's important to understand that everyone has individual needs and circumstances, and we should do what's best for our personal health and also think long-term about our career."

According to Spanish daily Marca, a WhatsApp group of the top 100 players revealed no enthusiasm for "travelling to New York and being locked up for a month".

On the exceptional measures, which have also drawn the ire of world No. 2 Rafael Nadal and 40th-ranked Nick Krygios, Eric Butorac, who is the United States Tennis Association's (USTA) director of player relations, said: "I know this isn't ideal.

"The 2019 Open was amazing. I wish we could run it back the same way. However, this is the world we are living in. We believe this is a good plan and believe it is good for the sport... most importantly, this plan keeps you safe."

But the organisers are running out of time to strike a compromise with players and other key stakeholders ahead of Monday's deadline to decide whether the hard-court Grand Slam, scheduled from Aug 31 to Sept 13, can proceed.

Unless they can be convinced otherwise over the weekend, the Flushing Meadows Slam "will join Wimbledon on the tennis scrapheap", according to The Guardian.

Admitting time was of the essence, Patrick Galbraith, president of the USTA, said: "We have less than a week to go, so we need to finally finalise what we will do."

The ATP and WTA Tours have been shut down since March because of the pandemic - both circuits are not set to resume before August at the earliest - and two Slams have already been affected.

Wimbledon was axed for the first time since World War II, while the French Open has been delayed until late September.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 13, 2020, with the headline Halep piles on Open discontent. Subscribe