With the tennis schedule in complete meltdown due to the ongoing COVID-19 chaos, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are trying to keep cool heads as official decisions loom on how the ATP and WTA will actually resume..
Players across the world are facing impossible choices about whether to risk health in the virus-hotbed US starting August 22 or cut losses and stay in Europe to compete.
Officials are waiting until the absolute last minute to give a go/no-go regarding the US Open, due to start as planned in New York on August 31 a week after the “Cincinnati” Masters to be played this year at the secured Open site.
But even the promise of a so-called “health bubble: from US officials may not be anywhere near enough to bring some Europeans across the Atlantic – not to mention as-of-now unresolved and confusing government quarantine regulations both in the US and Europe (upon return).
No. 1 Novak Djokovic has been leaving a trail of breadcrumbs for keen observers, with the Serb now back in Marbella training – on hardcourt.
In addition, he is said to have requested a case of balls identical to those which will be used if and when the US Open goes ahead.
The hardcourt hit-outs mark a distinct chance for Djokovic, who just a few weeks ago was training on clay.
The French Open moved itself from May to a September 27 start months ago, and will theoretically be preceded by the rescheduled Madrid and Roma Masters events.
With the calendar in its current state – and the five-month lockdown due to be lifted next week – it will prove logistically impossible for major players to compete on both sides of the Atlantic in the space of the six-week span available.
Djokovic has kept a low profile since drawing fire – and catching COVID – when his ill-starred Adria Tour through the Balkans went pear-shaped in June, resulting in other players coming down with the virus.
Meanwhile Nadal will certainly choose to aim for a record 13th title at Roland Garros, with the Spanish world No. 2 now training on clay at home in Mallorca.
Roger Federer is completing rehab in Switzerland after two knee procedures this season and is not due back on court until January.
Indications of Djokovic’s focus on the US Open and a potential 18th Grand Slam title came from former Australian player and current TV commentator
Rennae. Stubbs, who told The Racquet Magazine podcast:
“Novak apparently has ordered some tennis balls from the US Open. Indicating I would imagine he is coming. We will see what happens over the next couple of weeks. New York is doing fantastically well.”
Nadal has said from the start that health considerations amid the pandemic trump all for him and are sure to rule out the US Open.
“It is a little bit of worry when you see that Rafa is practicing on clay. So that is not a good sign,” Stubbs said.
Two players who have confirmed for New York are former champions and North Americans Serena Williams and Canadian holder Bianca Andreescu. Japanese media report that the country’s megastars Naomi Osaka and Kei Nishikori are also expected to play in the US as both are based there.