The USTA has has organised a medical advisory group to establish whether it is feasible to play this years US Open on schedule at Flushing Meadows on 31 August.
The Flushing Meadows Tennis venue is in Queens, the current world epicentre of the corona virus pandemic, and New York City is in lockdown until at least May 15 with over 10,000 attributable deaths.
The outcome of the study will be decided in June, but when asked if the event could conceivably be played behind closed doors, USTA Chief Executive Mike Dowse replied “We’re not taking anything off the table right now, but to be honest and open, I think that’s highly unlikely”
The event attracted 750,000 fans last year and Dowse added “That’s not really in the spirit of the celebration of tennis, and it also goes back to the health and wellbeing of our players and support staff that help run the tournament.
“Unless the medical experts come up with a solution that truly is foolproof and safe, we don’t see that as an option.”
“A tournament behind closed doors still involves several thousand people. The USTA would be able to fulfil its commitment to broadcasters, but would still have to pay the players while missing out on vast revenue from ticket sales, food and drink, and merchandise”
The USTA is still intending to run the tournament on schedule, but has previously indicated it may explore the possibility of pushing it back into the autumn.
The French Tennis Federation has already re-arranged for their Grand slam to run from 20 September to 4 October, pushing the event back four weeks from its original date of 24 May to 7 June, and Wimbledon has been expunged from the 2020 calendar.
Dowse added “In one sense we’re very fortunate that we are the fourth Grand Slam to go, so time is on our side at this point,”
“The driving factor will be the health and wellbeing of the players, the fans and our staff. And to that, we just don’t have enough information if we can run the tournament safely.
“We’ve set a time frame around June to make that decision, and the way we are approaching it is through a medical advisory group.
“We have five or six doctors consulting with us on a regular basis, and based on that information we will ultimately make the decision if it’s safe to play the tournament or not.”
The Billie Jean King National Tennis Centre, home to the US Open is currently set up as a 450 bed field hospital for New York victims of the Corona virus pandemic.
Dowse says they are also preparing 25,000 meals a day in the indoor practice centre for health care professionals, and children who are missing out on school lunches.