Tennis’ Most Ambitious Doubleheader in Years is Underway

When the Western & Southern Open begins in the northeasterly location of Queens on Saturday, it will likely be the primary a part of essentially the most important tennis doubleheader because the 2012 Wimbledon match and the Olympic tennis competitors had been performed on the identical well-tended grass courts of the All England Club.

But that doubleheader was a long-planned event, greater than seven years in the making.

This one in New York was devised below duress, with the coronavirus pandemic forcing American tennis officers to search out unconventional options to carry tour occasions again to the United States.

The outcome was shifting the Western & Southern Open — lengthy held in Mason, Ohio — to Queens for this 12 months — and hopefully solely this 12 months. It shall be adopted, after a fast two-day break, by the United States Open, scheduled to start on Aug. 31.

Both occasions shall be performed at the united statesT.A. Billie Jean King National Tennis Center however won’t use the entire similar courts, which is partly an try and protect separate identities.

The Western & Southern Open, a mixed males’s and girls’s occasion, will use the Grandstand as its major courtroom, with no plans to utilize the 2 largest venues on the grounds: Arthur Ashe Stadium and Louis Armstrong Stadium. The U.S. Open doesn’t plan to make use of the Grandstand for matches this 12 months.

“When I first heard the idea of moving,” stated Katie Haas, chief working officer of the Western & Southern Open, “I was of course like, ‘What? How’s that going to work?’ And then you stop and people start talking it out and talking it through and getting everybody’s buy-in and collaboration, and it’s like, ‘OK, we can do this.’”

It stays unclear how easily the occasions will go. No spectators shall be allowed at both match, however the gamers and their assist staffs started arriving on Aug. 15.

Then on Tuesday, the United States Tennis Association introduced that a person amongst that pool had examined constructive.

It turned out to be the Argentine health coach Juan Manuel Galvan, who is working with two gamers: Guido Pella of Argentina and Hugo Dellien of Bolivia.

Galvan was remoted in his room at one of many match’s Long Island accommodations.

Through contact tracing, it was decided that the 35th-ranked Pella and the 94th-ranked Dellien had each had in depth contact with Galvan, they usually had been withdrawn from the Western & Southern Open — Pella from the principle draw and Dellien from the qualifying.

Both gamers have examined adverse for the virus however are required to stay remoted in their rooms for 14 days. They nonetheless have an opportunity to participate in the U.S. Open if they’re cleared after their isolation interval. But they’re, for now, not allowed to observe or go away their rooms, which may make for a tough transition to best-of-five-set matches in the event that they do certainly return to motion in New York.

“It’s bad luck that I got affected out of the 1,400 tests that they did,” Pella stated in a video posted on social media. “But there is no other option than to do everything possible to get through these two weeks quickly and see if we can get to the U.S. Open.”

Novak Djokovic, the boys’s No. 1, and different gamers pushed for permitting Pella and Dellien to play in the Western & Southern Open, sustaining that neither was sharing a room with Galvan and that neither had examined constructive.

How to proceed in a situation like this was one in all a number of factors of competition between gamers and match and well being officers in current weeks.

“Before we were actually deciding to come to New York, we had to have a few of the things cleared up,” Djokovic said of the leading men’s players in an interview on Tuesday, before Pella and Dellien were withdrawn from the tournament.

It was ultimately determined that players would automatically be held out of the tournament if they were lodged in the same room with a team member who tested positive. But players are not automatically withdrawn if they are not staying in the same room as a team member. Instead, there is discretion.

Pella acknowledged that he and Dellien had been in close and frequent contact with Galvan during a recent training session in Miami. Men’s tour officials still lobbied for Pella and Dellien to be allowed to continue, but the final decision was made by officials from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

“The Pella-Dellien situation is unfortunate, and I wish it could have been resolved differently, but I’m glad it doesn’t negate the opportunities for everyone else,” said Brad Stine, a veteran coach who is working with the rising American player Tommy Paul.

The qualifying tournament began on Thursday as masked players from the men’s and women’s tours circulated through the vast and largely empty grounds.

“One hundred percent respecting the rules,” Stine said. “Players have been passing the time playing mini golf, pickleball, shooting hoops. The automated food system has been excellent.”

The women’s tour resumed this month in Palermo, Italy, but the Western & Southern Open is the first men’s tour event after the five-month hiatus caused by the pandemic and is also the first combined men’s and women’s tour event.

Fifteen of the top 20 men are entered, including Djokovic, No. 3 Dominic Thiem and No. 5 Daniil Medvedev, who won the title in Ohio last year. The former No. 1 Andy Murray, trying to return to the elite at age 33 after hip surgery, will face the American Frances Tiafoe in the first round.

The women’s event has 12 of the top 20, including No. 3 Karolina Pliskova, No. 4 Sofia Kenin, No. 9 Serena Williams, No. 10 Naomi Osaka and No. 13 Madison Keys, the defending women’s singles champion. Coco Gauff, the remarkable American 16-year-old, will face No. 21 seed Maria Sakkari in the first round.

It will be, more than ever in this setting, a test run for the U.S. Open, but it will also be an event trying to remain connected to its Midwestern base.

The Grandstand will house artwork linking two bridges designed by John Roebling: the Brooklyn Bridge in New York and the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge, which spans the Ohio River between Cincinnati and Covington, Ky.

Before each night session, tournament volunteers, ticket holders and others will toss a coin virtually from the Cincinnati area to the chair umpire in New York before the official coin toss.

Some of the equipment will still be connected to the tournament’s usual site, too. This month, Dick Clark, director of facilities for the Western & Southern Open, drove to New York from Mason, Ohio, in a rental truck full of material.

“We had to bring our umpires’ chairs because we have LED signage attached to those, and all the nets with our logos because the U.S. Open doesn’t utilize the same ones, and our player benches that are branded,” Haas said. “It was a very large truck.”

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