As the US gets ready to welcome tennis back in 2020, including at the US Open, the DraftKings All-American Team Cup in Atlanta drew in fans – literally – and players in its three-day tennis showing. Eventually, the Atlantan event also shared an awkward and short-lived parallel with the Adria Tour.
At least, in case of the former, the rest of its schedule was aborted right after a player – Grigor Dimitrov – announced he had tested positive for Covid-19 right before the final in its second stop in Zagreb, Croatia.
The latter tournament, however, went ahead with its contentious itinerary even after a player – Frances Tiafoe – tested positive for the infection after having played his opening match against Sam Querrey. Thoughtless as the second event’s progression was within itself, the callousness of playing anyway, followed by the doubling down of its continuity by players and organisers signalled not only obliviousness but also absolute tone-deafness – considering how hard the anvil of the virus had hit it.
But while those involved in the event may not have spoken up, what transpired within its ambit did enough to raise the decibels of the arguments against the rationale behind playing in the United States given the volatility of the virus in the country – and the tour’s resumption – in August.
After the All-American Team Cup snafu, what about the US Open?
Players, who have the most to gain – and lose – from the tour picking up again, have shared their views on the matter, as well. There have been those who have outright refused to play in the States – particularly, the US Open, and there have been those who have heartily committed to getting their professional lives restarted as well.
And then there have been those, who despite wanting the season to emerge from its pausing, are not convinced that the tour should start again, this year. These players can, then, count Stefanos Tsitsipas as one among their ranks.
The Greek, who is playing the Ultimate Tennis Showdown (UTS) in Nice, France, in French coach Patrick Mouratoglou’s academy, had a chat with a handful of media this past weekend. Replying to the question about whether the US Open – in particular – ought to have been held, Tsitsipas said, “…The US Open shouldn’t be played this year…It’s the right thing to do”.
The 21-year-old also added that he knew the condition in the US with the virus was serious but if the organisers were sure about having protocols for players’ safety in place, he would be travelling to play in the country.
Tsitsipas’ fellow UTS participant and rival Dustin Brown, however, felt differently. The German who has not crouched his stance about the treatment of lower-ranked players who would have comprised of the qualifying pool at the US Open or the status of the 2020 season, reiterated his words on the latter subject during his conversation on the side-lines of UTS’ action.
“…One thing I have said the entire time is I don’t think there should be a tour till it’s fair for everyone to travel and to be free to travel no matter what country you are from, no matter what tournaments you are playing,” Brown said.
“In my opinion, from a player’s standpoint… everyone needs to have the same chance… Obviously, a lot of tournaments are not completely only looking at the player perspective. They have a business perspective that they need to look at”.
Pointing out he was not the one involved in the decision-making, the 35-year-old then noted, “It’s just tough when certain people are playing for points, and other people don’t get a chance to play, and other people are playing for money”.
Finally, in a matter-of-fact tone, Brown added, “…At the end of the day, the guys that are really struggling are probably the two, three, 400, 500 in the world in the ranking and they probably don’t have a chance to play.
Obviously, everyone wants to make money and so, I think it should be fair for all. I know it’s not ideal, it’s not easy and that’s just the way I see it”. Brown’s last statement re-opened the barely-hidden divide that co-exists in tennisdom, among its playing numbers.
A divide that not only cuts across rankings and prize monies but also in being able – and left unable – to choose and decide for oneself about one’s immediate career timeline. Irrespective of the clamouring, once the 2020 tennis season picks up its continuity in the US with its cautious extravaganza culminating at the US Open, the fall-out at the All-American Team Cup – despite its downplaying – will be a spectre for the USTA to avoid.
Not only to live up to the expectations of prudent players such as Tsitsipas but also for the sakes of those whose interests have been short-changed such as Brown’s. Photo Credit: Ultimate Tennis Showdown (UTS)