Andy Murray and world no. 12 Roberto Bautista Agut, as seen in the picture above, are among the high-profile tennis players that have spoken recently about their plans to return – with the US Open on everyone’s minds.
A few exhibitions and small-scale tournaments aside, tennis has remained dormant worldwide since March.
That was the month where the coronavirus pandemic suspended all sports indefinitely.
The majority have since returned and others are preparing to do the same in staggered schedules between now and 2021 – tennis are following suit.
With that in mind, and two Grand Slams still tentatively on the 2020 calendar, here’s a breakdown of who has said what over the last few days.
Three-time Grand Slam champion Murray is expecting the US Open to go ahead as planned, so has stepped up his personal preparations to play at Flushing Meadows this year.
The US Open organisers received the green light from the New York Governor to proceed with the event and are doing their utmost to make it very safe.
With over 4.4 million cases and 150,000 deaths, the United States is the hardest-hit country by the pandemic worldwide.
However, those in charge are confident they can still safely organise the tournament without fans in attendance – even though their strict safety protocols have drawn criticism.
As quoted by the Metro, Murray answered this when asked whether the US Open would continue as planned:
“Yeah, as it stands. We have to try and prepare that way, we were saying four or five weeks ago, you know, we were pretty sceptical about it but mentally at some stage you need to start preparing and planning for that.
“My training this week for example, during the event next week, I’m planning to try and be there in shape for the US Open.”
“If it wasn’t happening my schedule for practising, my rehab would all be a bit different. So yeah, mentally I’m planning for it to go ahead.”
As I reported last month, the USTA aim to host both the Cincinnati Masters and US Open in New York – in a bubble.
Murray isn’t exactly welcoming the idea of back-to-back competition given the toll on his body, as someone who hasn’t played immediately before a Slam since his teenage years.
“I’m not particularly keen on playing back-to-back weeks but it’s also kind of in a situation here where you’re potentially not getting to play in a proper tournament for like – well for a lot of the guys it’ll be five, six months but for me like 10 months since I last competed properly.”
Britain’s top-ranked female player Johanna Konta also expects the US Open to continue as planned. The 29-year-old, ranked world no. 14, is still shaking off rust after a four-month hiatus, having lost to 21-year-old Jodie Burrage (world no. 289) earlier this week.
After reaching last summer’s US Open quarter-finals, she lost in straight-sets during round one of the Australian Open to Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur (world no 39).
Konta reached the Monterrey semis in early March, where she lost to 22-year-old Marie Bouzkova (world no. 47) in her final match before the suspension of play.
She was quoted as saying:
“To be honest, we haven’t had any meetings for a few weeks now. But everything is pointing in the direction that is going to go ahead.
They have been quite vocal that they are pushing forwards – just basing my opinion on all the information that is there, I think it probably will.”
Meanwhile, former world no.1 Garbine Muguruza is hoping to play the US Open and all possible tournaments as long as it remains safe and the health situation allows her the opportunity to do so.
The two-time Grand Slam winner spoke online in a show for Caser Seguros, the company of which she is a brand ambassador.
The 26-year-old Spaniard described herself as a born competitor and is looking forward to making her long-awaited return on the WTA Tour.
She, like many other players, said it would be difficult to play without supporters.
Nonetheless, she’s harbouring hopes that limited numbers can resume as time progresses and the health situation improves.
It’s something that has already been trialled with social distancing being observed in Scandinavian football fixtures.
On the importance of mental toughness when play resumes, she said:
“It is a question of resistance and mental strength. Whoever is stronger will have the easiest path to victory.”
After enduring a few rocky seasons with inconsistent results, Garbine began 2020 in style. She beat the likes of Elina Svitolina and Simona Halep enroute to her fourth Grand Slam final, ultimately losing in three sets to 14th seed Sofia Kenin.
Muguruza has an 80% winning percentage so far in 2020 and wants to build during the latter months of what was shaping up as a promising year.
World no. 13 Diego Schwartzman has expressed some displeasure over the lack of communication the ATP has had with players in recent months.
Since the pandemic began, players have found out some major news and updates through social media platforms – rather than directly from the ATP.
Last week, Washington’s Citi Open was cancelled. Most players hoping to compete only found out via Twitter.
In a statement by tournament organisers, they said there were “too many unresolved external issues”, which included multiple international travel restrictions and “troubling” health and safety trends.
“We are very disappointed that we could not provide players this competitive opportunity and tennis fans around the world their first chance to once again experience the thrills of watching an ATP tournament.”
Although news of the cancellation was not surprising, the Argentine said he will play this year’s US Open but also underlined conditions organisers are planning to put in place are not ideal.
He told FM Milenium, as quoted on La Nacion:
“The way they communicate and want to carry out, for example the US Open, is crazy.
“In my case I will go to play because I need to – it is my job – but the conditions are crazy.
“Going to play a Grand Slam after seven months with only one companion, locked in a hotel for 21 days without being able to leave, is all too far-fetched.”
Roberto Bautista Agut
World no. 12 Roberto Bautista Agut has revealed he targeted playing star-studded exhibition events to have some tough competition ahead of the Tour’s resumption.
Bautista Agut, who made last year’s Wimbledon semi-finals, returned to competitive action in June at an exhibition event in Alicante, before playing at Dominic Thiem’s Berlin exhibition.
As quoted by Punto de Break, he described his planning and having the ability to try new things:
“My planning has been based on looking for top-level tournaments: tournaments that most closely resemble ATP tournaments.
“I’ve been testing with a new racket, testing a few things. I wanted to try playing with that new racket on different surfaces, see how I was going. In the end, I went back to my usual racket.”
“Yes, it is true that I am a person who adapts quickly to competition, someone who normally returns to competition quite well, but this break is different.
It has been a few months, a long time away. That is why I have decided to compete a lot over the last few weeks, to give a rhythm of competition to my preparation and I think that will come in handy for the coming weeks.”
He also said he’s not “desperate” to return and has handled the suspension well, as someone who isn’t nervous or particularly anxious about resuming.
“Yes, it is true that our work is to compete and I’m the first one who wants everything to return to normal.”
The US Open will take place from August 31 – September 13 and provisional plans are in place with a list of strict hygiene rules and regulations surrounding player movement during the tournament.
A number of players have complained about the restrictions but the US Open staff are keen on organising the event as safely as possible.
“I prefer to come back as soon as possible. It will always be positive for us that events like Cincinnati or US Open are played: it is better that they are played than not played. If the American tour goes forward, I will go and play.”
All quotes’ source: TennisWorld USA, unless stated