The US Open has always been regarded as the tennis Grand Slam tournament with the greatest unrest. The planes thundering over Flushing Meadows, the loud New York crowd. The tournament, which starts today, will have no problems with the noise of the spectators, visitors are excluded due to the corona pandemic. But it will remain restless, the tennis world is in turmoil.
One has the feeling that the less tennis is played during these months, the more audible the background noise becomes. Seldom has tennis produced so many headlines that have nothing to do with purely sporting matters as in the months of the Corona period.
World number one Novak Djokovic, the big favorite for the individual title among men, made people sit up and take notice with strange theories about the pandemic, then he organized his own tournament, the Adriatic Tour, largely neglecting protection and preventive measures and then infected himself with the Virus.
Federer and Nadal counter the old rival
Shortly before the start of the tournament, Djokovic caused the next upset by announcing the establishment of his own player organization PTPA at the weekend. The counterattack of the old rivals Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer from afar came immediately: “It’s time for unity, not for division,” tweeted Nadal. Federer seconded: “I believe that it is very important for us to stand together as players.”
Both Federer and Nadal can currently only give Djokovic contra via social media, both are not at the start in New York for different reasons: The Swiss is curing his protracted knee complaints, defending champion Nadal waived because he is directly on the clay court highlights in Europe wants to concentrate after the US Open. The thinned out field of participants among men and women as a result of the pandemic is symbolic of the turmoil in the scene. Some prefer to stay in Europe, others hope for a good result in New York, especially because of the cancellations of numerous top players.
Six of the top ten women in the world rankings are not at the start, while Naomi Osaka is fourth. She also made the headlines in the end. At the pre-tournament in New York, she struck her semifinals to send a message against racism and police violence in the United States and to show solidarity with the stars of the NBA basketball league. Only later did she declare that she was ready to run. The Black Lives Matter movement has also moved and shaken up the tennis scene. Players like the young Cori Gauff have taken a clear and determined position. Other top stars like Federer and Nadal have left it with symbolic social media gestures. Here, too, there is a rift through the industry.
Sport only played a minor role to this day
Osaka justified their strike last week with the sentence: “There are currently more important things than watching me play tennis.” In fact, the sport has moved into the background, no matter how hard those responsible try to suggest something like normality again through a full schedule in autumn, to keep going what is also called the tennis circus. When Angelique Kerber serves the Australian Ajla Tomljanovic from 5 p.m. today and Germany’s number one men’s Alexander Zverev then faces the robust South African Kevin Anderson, the focus will be a little more on the sport again. The fact that Kerber and Zverev are currently traveling to the tournament in an uncertain form, that Zverev’s father has to stay at home because he was also infected with the corona virus, fits into the overall picture.
It will be a Grand Slam tournament that will be very different from everything that was before. Corona is primarily responsible for this, after all, it was open for a long time whether it could even be played in New York. The tournament has the first case of infection before the first service. The Frenchman Benoît Paire has tested positive and can not compete.
But it’s not just Corona, it’s also fermenting behind it. Djokovic justified his move to a new player representation mainly by saying that he no longer felt represented by the traditional ATP. He has reportedly resigned from his position as President of the ATP Players’ Council. His move caught the ATP in the middle of a situation of uncertainty, a phase in which the scene is characterized by an unprecedented hunt for deadlines. The fact that Djokovic only included men when he founded his new company and did not take women’s tennis into account was angered by former Wimbledon winner Andy Murray. It continues to rumble.
Federer spoke up on Sunday by posting: “These are uncertain and challenging times.” At least on this sentence, everyone can currently agree. But only there.