The United States Tennis Association (USTA) has detailed its full operations plan for the 2020 US Open as it aims to successfully stage the first grand slam event held during COVID-19.
In June, the USTA confirmed that this year’s US Open would go ahead behind closed doors as part of a double bill of tournaments. The 2020 US Open is set to be played at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center (NTC) in Flushing Meadows, New York, on its originally scheduled dates of August 31 to September 13.
It will be immediately preceded by the relocated Western & Southern Open, which will take place at the same site having been moved from Cincinnati. The NTC officially opened for the two tournaments on Saturday, and all players competing in the main draw of the Western & Southern Open were required to be in the USTA’s controlled environment and tested by yesterday (Tuesday), ahead of the August 22 start.
The USTA yesterday explained its Health and Safety Plan for what will be one of the first major international sporting events held in the COVID-19 era, with full details available here.
A tiered system is at the heart of the plan, with players and their guests among the approximately 1,000 people designated to Tier 1. This group is subject to the strictest set of protocols, including two tests within 48 hours of arrival to New York and subsequent tests every four days thereafter.
Tier 2 includes broadcasters and others with limited player interaction, and Tier 3 covers support staff with even more limited exposure. The USTA yesterday announced that one person, not a player, returned a positive test out of 1,400 conducted. The person, who is asymptomatic, will be isolated for 10 days, with contact tracing utilised to determine who else might have been exposed.
“We expected this to happen,” USTA CEO Mike Dowse said, according to the Associated Press news agency. “Mathematically, we expected to have a positive, if not more than one. So we did anticipate this and we have put very specific protocol in place to prevent this from spreading broadly. Our No. 1 priority is to take care of this person first, and secondly to prevent the spread from going any further.”
To help with on-site compliance with the plan, health and safety ambassadors have been put in place around the grounds of the NTC. Forty people will help enforce social distancing guidelines, making sure players and others avoid close contact and wear face coverings. Monitors will also be used at tournament hotels to ensure people don’t leave their rooms for 24 hours after an initial COVID-19 test.
Cars transporting players and others between the hotels and NTC are being replaced by around 60 buses, filled to 50% capacity. Every room on the NTC site has been measured and had its air flow analysed. This has resulted in some rooms being closed, with others fitted with filtration systems to rotate air.
Arthur Ashe Stadium locker rooms that normally hold up to 300 people will be limited to 30 at a time, with only players able to access in periods of around 15 minutes. The majority of training and massage tables have been moved from locker rooms to outdoors, while the capacity of the players’ dining room has been cut from 300 to 50, with hundreds of tables and chair instead being set up on the Ashe promenade.
Meanwhile, some 64 suites in Arthur Ashe Stadium has been repurposed as personal lounges to the 32 women and 32 men who are singles seeds for the US Open.
Billie Jean King National Tennis Center chief operating officer Danny Zausner said: “For the players, this has to feel like a US Open – like, even better than last year’s US Open. The only caveat is that we’re building it for 350-plus players but not 800,000-plus fans.”
Image: US Open