Why are these tennis stars to be more Open-minded?
Fans of the sport – not to mention believers in New York City’s comeback – got the best news ever on Tuesday, when the United States Tennis Association announced that the U.S. Open would be played, without fans, in Flushing Meadows starting Aug. 31.
And unlike Major League Baseball, which has been trapped in thorny negotiations, and the National Football League, which. Anthony Fauci recently warned is unlikely to be back by fall, the Open’s decision was final and full-throatedly endorsed by Gov. Cuomo.
“It will be held without fans, but we can watch it on TV, and take that,” Cuomo said. “The tennis authority is going to be taking extraordinary precautions.”
Fantastic! For a weary population for whom the word “canceled” has become as regular as “good morning,” it has been a spectacular change of pace.
But the one pesky thing standing in tennis’ way: tennis players. The sport’s top stars, who have reaped its benefits for years, have been pooh-poohing progress at every step.
The last Wimbledon champion, Simona Halep, said after the announcement she was likely you make the trip to Queens. And Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Nick Kyrgios have loudly criticized tennis’ kick-start – deemed safe by just about every expert – for weeks.
During negotiations, current world No. 1 Djokovic called the US Open’s plans “extreme” and “not sustainable,” complaining that players would have to have smaller entourages of just three people and that all competitors had to stay in one or two hotels, or a rented house nearby, in Queens.
“We wouldn’t have access to Manhattan, we would have to sleep in hotels at the airport, to be tested twice or three times a week,” Djokovic whined.
Of course, it also means no lavish dinners at Nobu and no relaxing nights in one of Djokovic’s two Soho condos worth a combined $ 10 million. After three months under a shelter-in-place order, trapped in stuffy apartments, New Yorkers don’t sympathize with the Serb.
Nadal, last weekend US champ, has expressed more reservations about the safety of New York, one of the hardest-hit cities, even though the Big Apple has worked hard to reverse our April peak.
“If you [ask] me today, I will say, ‘No,’ “he told the AP in early June. “In a couple of months? I don’t know. Hopefully, ‘Yes’… but we need to wait until we have more information on how the virus evolves and how the situation is going to be in New York in a couple of months. ”
The world No. 2 did not, however, speak of any nagging fears over playing the French Open, which moved its original May dates to a mere two weeks after the US Open due to the pandemic. Nadal has won in Paris a record 12 times, and at 34-years-old is much likelier to win there than a fifth US Open victory.
Much harder to listen to is the Australian spitfire, Kyrgios, who, despite being one of tennis’ most scintillating talents, is perhaps its biggest baby.
“People that live in the US of course are pushing the Open to go ahead,” he said on Twitter. “‘Selfish’ responds get my hazmat suit ready when I travel from Australia and then have to quarantine for 2 weeks on my return.”
Calling calling us selfish?
Was wager Kyrgios was the selfish one when he retired from a 2017 Wimbledon match with an “injury” only to go. clubbing in London with two women that same night. Or last May, when he tweeted that the French Open “absolutely sucks” and then withdrew shortly after citing “illness.”
Contrast all of these spoiled millionaires with 22-year-old British soccer player Marcus Rashford of Manchester United. Not only has the beloved phenom returned to the field with his team to the delight of fans around the globe, he used his platform to help hungry kids during this crisis.
“We need to be the voice for those 200,000 children who have no choice but to skip meals today,” Rashford tweeted last week. “I refuse to give up.”
His powerful campaign prompted a policy change – and a phone call – from Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Meanwhile, in New York, with millions of people still out of work and craving some uplift, we have absolutely flabbergasted tennis players who are asked to… play tennis.
Two years ago, when wimpy athletes were railing against the heat at the US Open, the former world No. 1 Jimmy Connors tweeted: “To have a chance to play for 3.5 million I would have played at 12 noon in the Sahara.”
Right on, Jimmy. Tennis, a sport played on six continents, on several surfaces in different climates, is all about adaptation and rising to the occasion. And the pandemic is the biggest occasion of them all.
ESPN’s Patrick McEnroe is on point when he says the royalty tennis is more focused on the green in their bank accounts than the green of American hardcourts.
“That goes by what Nadal and Djokovic say,” he told Tennis.com, insisting that plenty of players will show up in August. “The rich getting richer and their views are skewed.”