Just days after vowing to play as usual in front of a full house, US Open officials may be hitting the panic button as the reality of living in the worldwide hotspot of the COVID-19 pandemic sinks in.
Reports indicate that bosses are ready to roll back their firm opposition to a “fan-free” 2020 edition and try to stage the Grand Slam scheduled to begin August 31 with no fans in the stands.
There still remains the not-so-minor problem of getting up to 500 players – the overwhelming majority of them foreign – into the US to actually compete.
Open execs had previously dismissed the idea of empty stadiums at Flushing Meadows, which sits in the epicentre of the world-worst US outbreak, the NYC borough of Queens.
Bosses are now spinning the money-losing and logistically-challenged no-fan plan as “historic.”
“Two months ago, it just didn’t feel like you could [have] a no-fan scenario and have it be what we think of as the U.S. Open,” USTA official Lew Sherr told Sportsbusiness Journal.
“As we’ve gone forward, I’ve come around to recognising what an achievement it would be to play… we have 850,000 fans who attend, but we’ve got hundreds of millions of fans who still watch the Open around the world and will never step foot on the grounds.”
With no actual decision yet to be made – mid-June is the target date for that – Open suits sound desperate to at least score some of the mega-millions in television money for matches played inside an empty 26,000 capacity Ashe stadium and other venues around the grounds.
“It will require adjustments, It’s a different event.
It would be broadcast differently, it would be consumed differently, it’s not just playing the U.S. Open, as you know it, with empty seats,” Sherr said.
With most international travel currently banned due to the worldwide health crisis, the event could well turn into a mini hit-out for US-based players and no one else.