World No.6 Bianca Andreescu has confirmed that she intends to play at the US Open amid concerns that some of her rivals may choose to skip the event due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Andreescu is the defending champion at Flushing Meadows after defeating Serena Williams in the final last year. Becoming the first Canadian player in history to win a Grand Slam title at singles level. Taking to Twitter, the 20-year-old said she plans to make the most of tennis resuming later this year. On Wednesday the revised provisional schedule for 2020 was published with competitive tennis set to start during the first week of August in Palermo, Italy.
“The US Open will always hold a very special place in my heart. Arthur Ashe is where I won my first grand slam title and I treasure so many unforgettable moments at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Since then, we’ve seen sports, and the world as we know it, come to a halt due to the spread of COVID-19,” Andreescu wrote.
“I can’t stress enough that the health and safety of, not only the players, but of all those involved in making tennis happen again this season is, and has always been, of the utmost importance.”
It has been more than seven months since Andreescu last played a match on the Tour after missing the start of this season due to a knee injury. She was due to return to action at the Credit One Bank International in Charleston. An exhibition tournament set to feature some of the best players in North America. However, tournament organisers have announced she has withdrawn from competition. Although it is believed that her decision was due to logistics and is not a physical issue.
In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s US Open will not have any qualifying rounds and the size of the doubles draw has been cut. Players will be subject to testing throughout their stay in New York in which they will essentially be kept in a ‘bubble.’ Also this year, the Western and Southern Open have been relocated to Flushing meadows and will take place prior to the Grand Slam. Both events will take place behind closed doors.
“I have no doubt that the USTA has come up with the best plan to ensure our safety as we look to the return of tennis in 2020. The decision, I know was not made lightly and I completely support and understand every players personal opinions on the matter and their comfort level traveling near and far to compete on the world’s biggest stage,” Andreescu said.
“Returning to life as we once knew it is no longer an option but, I plan to make the most of the opportunity to get back on the court, re-connect with players and friends and hopefully bring tennis back to the millions of fans across the globe safely.”
Others still on the fence
Despite Andreescu’s confidence in the event, others are sticking to the cautious side. World No.2 Simona Halep, who is the reigning Wimbledon champion, has previously cast doubt on her travelling to New York this year. It had been originally reported that the Romanian plans to play tournaments in just Europe, but a spokesperson from her team has since said that no final decision has been made yet.
“Given the conditions outlined in the US Open this morning, as of today I do not currently plan to play in NYC,” Halep said in a press release issued to Christopher Clarey from The New York Times.
“However, as we know, this situation is fluid and the conditions may change and improve before the entry deadline in July.’
“I would like to underline that my decision is not set in stone.” She added.
Another top women’s name yet to make her final decision is Petra Kvitova. The Czech says she is hoping that the current health situation in the American city improved in the coming week to make her final decision ‘easier.’ Since making her grand slam main draw debut in 2008, Kvitova has never missed the US Open.
“I would like to congratulate the U.S. Open on their hard work and vision in getting to this point and for putting player safety at the centre of their plans,” she told Reuters via e-mail.
“Hopefully the COVID-19 numbers and conditions around travel restrictions continue to improve in order to make the decision to play an easy one.”
On the other hand, Serena Williams has declared that she would be playing at the tournament. Doing so by recording a video statement that was played during the USTA’s virtual press conference yesterday. The American will be bidding to win a record-equalling 24th major title and become the first woman ever to have won a Grand Slam in four different decades.
“I really cannot wait to return in New York and play the US Open 2020,” the six-time champion said. “I feel like the USTA is going to do a really good job of ensuring everything is amazing and everything is perfect and everyone is safe. It’s going to be exciting.”
The US Open will get underway on August 31st.