The world’s leading tennis players will be forced to pay for security guards to check on them 24 hours a day during next month’s US Open.
Any of them choosing to stay in a private house outside the official hotel – a common practice at Wimbledon – will be forced to foot the bill for designated staff to check that they are not breaking ‘bubble’ regulations around the clock. Houses must be rented through official US Tennis Association channels.
Andy Murray has been among those demanding a properly enforced regime and heavy sanctions for those who break the rules, and the tournament appears to have heeded that message.
No player will be allowed more than three designated people to accompany them, and all will have to adhere to the protocols both within Flushing Meadows and when they are off duty.
Any player found to have met up with someone from outside will be removed from the tournament. The same will apply to an entourage member who steps out of line, and they will also be banned from the event in 2021.
A player who tests positive for Covid-19 will be removed from the event and forced to isolate for 10 days.
Rafael Nadal joined the list of those officially withdrawing from the tournament on Tuesday evening. Reports from Serbia suggested that, even though he has remained on the entry list, Novak Djokovic is still not fully committed to playing, and that he will make a decision in the next few days.
He has previously expressed reservations about restrictions on entourages. At last year’s event he even had his own personal hyperbaric chamber on a lorry stationed in the car park at Flushing Meadows.
Nadal has confirmed that he will work towards playing the French Open in late September, and he is unlikely to be the last withdrawal from New York, even with the entry lists published.
One consideration discussed within the game is whether, in their great race to see who can win the most Slam titles, this year’s Open will end up being marked with an awkward asterisk due to its depleted field.
The Spaniard sort of acknowledged this on Wednesday, while maintaining that a worthy winner will emerge: ‘It’s true it will be in special circumstances, lots of important players not there,’ he said ‘ But still a Grand Slam and the winner will feel like the winner of a Grand Slam.’
With the thrust of the policy to keep numbers as low as possible on site, one likelihood is that any dropouts from the US Open singles draws will have to be replaced by doubles players.
In a more encouraging development, the Italian Open is still due to go ahead before Roland Garros, with the hope that having spectators may again be possible.