After initially withdrawing her match in protest against the Western & Southern Open, a precursor to the US Open, tennis star Naomi Osaka won her semifinal and eventually finished second.
“[The WTA and USTA] he offered to postpone all games until Friday and in my mind that brings more attention to the movement, ”Osaka told The Guardian.
Billie Jean King, a 39-time Grand Slam champion and part of the Original Nine who pioneered equality for women in professional tennis 50 years ago, praised Osaka for using her platform.
“This is really the moment when we can really, really change things,” King said in an interview with CNBC’s Squawk Box recorded Thursday. “We will continue to use our platform at the US Open for positive change, for equality and for justice.”
Osaka, 22, earned $ 37 million between May 2019 and May 2020, more than any other female athlete ever, according to Forbes.
“We immediately realized that the right decision was to support our athletes, but also support our sport by taking that break on Thursday,” United States Tennis Association CEO Michael Dowse said in an interview with Squawk Box. “It is important to start anew collectively, together on this global stage.”
The US Open attracts tourists from all over the world and has traditionally been a boost to New York City’s economy.
Dowse said revenue, which will depend on broadcast and sponsorship deals, will be down 80% without fans this year. The organization had to draw on its reserves to fund the tournament. In 2019, a record 737,872 people attended the US Open in two weeks, generating $ 400 million in revenue.
“We have no fans in sight, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have fans all over the world watching the sport. Everyone is hungry to see world-class tennis again,” Dowse said from an empty Arthur Ashe stadium on Friday morning.
Unlike the NBA bubble, the USTA is implementing a multilevel system to monitor the health of players, media and event staff. Players and their guests, who are part of Level 1, are tested every four days.
“The US Open has been very, very adaptable,” King said. “It really depends on personal responsibility and that they have their own two bubbles, one for the players and one for the support team and all – they are trying to get it right.”
Dowse hopes the tournament will inspire more Americans to try their hand at the sport of tennis, which he points out as an anomaly in the pandemic.
“People have realized that tennis is the perfect sport to distance society,” says Dowse. “We are cautiously optimistic that next year we will have fans at the stadium.”