The USTA has appointed 40 ‘social distance ambassadors’ to monitor the US Open grounds and players’ hotel to minimize the risk of Coronavirus during the tournament.
According to news agency Associated Press, the ‘monitors’ will ensure that players, as well as people associated with the tournament, maintain social distancing and are, at all times, wearing a face mask.
“We’re trying to leave nothing to chance,” Billie Jean King National Tennis Center chief operating officer Danny Zausner told AP. “And make it as stress-free for the players as possible.”
While the on-site ambassadors will be split into two shifts of 20, there will be people monitoring the players at the hotel too, making sure people don’t leave their rooms for 24 hours after an initial COVID-19 test.
“If they come down for whatever reason a security person is there to say, ‘Excuse me. You need to be upstairs,’ and send them back up to their room,” Zausner added.
About 350 players, or 90 per cent of the field—are already in the bubble in New York, set up for the upcoming Western and Southern Open, which begins on August 22 and will be played at the US Open site, Flushing Meadows, this year.
The hard-court Slam will take place from August 31 to September 13 behind closed doors.
The US Open marks tennis’ return to the big league since the Covid-19 outbreak in March and will have the eyes of the world upon it.
However, tennis players haven’t covered themselves in glory during the few exhibition events that did take place during the shutdown. Novak Djokovic’s Adria Tour saw four players, including the Serb, testing positive for the virus and had to be cancelled mid-way.
Though Alexander Zverev, who was part of the Adria Tour, tested negative, he said in a statement that he would be self-isolating as a precaution. But before a week was up, videos of him partying in France emerged on social media.
American player Danielle Collins left the bio-secure bubble during the World Team Tennis, actually traveling two hours by car and crossing state borders en route. She was dismissed from the three-week event.
Not surprisingly, players like Andy Murray have asked for ‘severe sanctions’ on those who breach protocols and put the event and others’ health at risk.
Individual tests positive
On Tuesday, the USTA announced that one person – not a player—in the US Open ‘bubble’ had tested positive for Covid-19 and will be isolated for 10 days.
“We expected this to happen,” USTA CEO Mike Dowse said during a conference call with reporters.
“Mathematically, we expected to have a positive, if not more than one. So we did anticipate this and we have put very specific protocol in place to prevent this from spreading broadly.”
But once the US Open starts, a player testing positive for the virus will no longer be a part of the tournament.
The USA has been the country worst-hit by the pandemic. So far, it has recorded over 5 million cases and 175,000 deaths.