The United States Tennis Association (USTA) had come up with its elaborate plans to stage the US Open in 2020 on its scheduled dates, with a focus on responsibility. The word’s significance has since unravelled even though the event itself is more than a month away.
This is courtesy of the same guys on whom the USTA had placed its faith on upholding the term – both literally and figuratively – i.e., the players. This unpicking has also come by way of episodic patterns drawn out, in reality-show-like mini-series in which tennis players have dealt with cliff-hangers – brought about their ill-timed (mis)direction – in the form an encounter with the raging monster that is the Coronavirus.
The hyperbolic fiesta of the Adria Tour was, then, the first part of this mini-series followed by the number of participants – from Grigor Dimitrov up to Goran Ivanisevic, and including Novak Djokovic – who tested positive for Covid-19.
The name-calling tiff between Boris Becker and Nick Kyrgios that succeeded Alexander Zverev’s revelry in Monaco when he was supposed to be self-isolating was another continuation in this unexpected series playing out in tennis’ forced hiatus.
Other players – Dominic Thiem, among others – and other events keep flitting in and out of this montage like well-developed secondary characters whose presence has added heft to the ongoing saga. John Isner became the newest player to join this unusual creative cacophony.
In a series of tweets, Isner not only defended an upcoming team tennis event to be played in Atlanta, Georgia but also derogatorily criticised the unwelcomeness that greeted the manner of the event’s organisation. Scheduled to be played between 3rd-5th July, the DraftKings All-American Team Cup is an eight-man tournament to feature the top octet of American men’s singles players divided into two groups of four players each.
The holding of the event itself is not a problem but that it is to have fans in the stands is a dicey development that is (rightfully) being seen as bothersome.
US Open 2020: Are players holding their end of the bargain of responsibility?
To a person who tweeted the latest count of Covid-19 cases in the United States, the American no.
1 rudely riposted, “You coronabros can stay in your basement all you want. I choose to live my life and play/promote the sport I love in a safe manner”. Isner’s derisive response nearly matched Djokovic’s disparaging assessment regarding the extent of Covid-19’s spread during the Adria Tour’s run in his home-city, Belgrade.
“We have different circumstances and measures, so it’s very difficult to think of international standards,” the world no. 1 had said, before adding for good measure, “…Of course, lives have been lost and that’s horrible to see, in the region and worldwide, but life goes on, and we as athletes are looking forward to competing”.
A couple of weeks later, Djokovic was forced to re-evaluate his initial stance while having to accept that underestimation of the virus came at a steep price. Nonetheless, the Serbian’s decision-making regarding the arrangements of his event stemmed – in many ways – from lack of wanting to be aware.
Isner’s words, however, displayed foolhardiness. It was not so much about not knowing how dangerous the virus is as it was about insisting that nothing could go wrong with the event. And, through this insistence was also the wilful ignoring of how even the slightest act of irresponsibleness could scupper well-intentioned plans, as seen in the detritus of the Adria Tour edifice.
Circling back to the 2020 US Open, tournament director Stacey Allaster’s words merit revisiting. “We’ve created this plan; this centralised plan so that our athletes can come back and return to work. I think, as we are all returning to work, we all have a responsibility to ourselves, to our families, (and) to our fellow co-workers,” she said, during the press conference that was held after the USTA confirmed the Major’s go-ahead.
“I have a lot of confidence in these professional athletes,” she added, before finally stating, “…It will be on all of us to do our part, to be able to stage this event in the safest and healthiest way and again, I am confident in the athletes who do decide to join us, will share in that responsibility”.
However, the irony glinting off these athletes’ behaviours, on whom Allaster has placed her confidence, could not have been any brighter. For them to be stakeholders in upholding responsibility, they have to first recognise there is a problem.
That these athletes have found it cumbersome to acknowledge the prevalent hindrance itself, threatens to cancel the US Open – the one pilot everyone is waiting for – its promissory appeal notwithstanding.