US Open organisers look set to welcome world No.1 Novak Djokovic to what will now be the second Grand Slam of the year, despite his initial reservations over tournament regulations as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
Djokovic, the 17-time Grand Slam champion from Serbia, originally branded the restrictions the tournament was set to place on travelling athletes as ‘extreme’ but has now toned that down to ‘quite strict’ after a series of changes were made by tournament organisers.
Perhaps the most notable was that all athletes will now be able to bring three people with them to stay in the tournament hotel – a number that will be higher for those, as Djokovic surely will, who elect to rent private residence for the event.
Roger Federer is a certain absentee after undergoing a second round of knee surgery in 2020, but Serena Williams gave her backing to the United States Tennis Association at a press conference on Wednesday and Djokovic said he was ‘very glad’ to see the tournament going ahead at the end of August, having previously announced his plans to pick up his season in Europe.
I’m extremely happy and excited to see that all the tournaments, especially Grand Slams, are organising their events,’ Djokovic, 33, told the Tennis Legends podcast.
‘I think it is fantastic news that the tour is coming back. I am sure that I am speaking on behalf of all the players and all the tennis fans and everyone involved in the tennis ecosystem. This is what we have been waiting for, for all these months! We’ve been hoping and praying that the tour will continue very soon.
‘I think that a lot of people were sceptical, especially for the US events considering what the US went through as a country during this pandemic. So a lot of people, including myself, were quite sceptical on whether it would happen or not.
‘We are very glad that it is happening, of course, and it is very important that we provide opportunities, we provide jobs, we provide opportunities for players to compete. Because at the end of the day, this is what we do!
‘As tennis professionals we love the sport; we are passionate about it. We miss competing and travelling and, at the end of the day, we miss being on tour. So I think this is a very positive news.’
Djokovic, a three-time champion at Flushing Meadows, still expressed his wish for regulations to be further loosened before the tournament gets underway.
‘Obviously the regulations and measures as of today are quite strict, I must say,’ he added. ‘With quarantine and with some players, especially those from South America, not being able to travel out of their countries to come to the States.
‘Hopefully that will change: the ATP and the USTA, everyone is working on it. The worst case scenario is that it remains like this, but there is time. ‘Hopefully every single player who is participating, chosen by ranking and who deserves their place at the US Open, will have an equal opportunity to travel there and compete as everybody else. This is very, very important because this is the foundation of the ATP and the foundation of international tennis.
‘We will all collectively try to make sure that this is the priority. Let’s hope that in the next two months some of those restrictions will loosen up a bit and that we will have a great, great tournament.
’The French Open was pushed back again as part of a calendar reshuffle and Djokovic says he ‘can’t wait to go back’.
‘Of course, Roland Garros moved to different dates in the calendar and I am glad that they were able to put everything together because I understand the complications and the challenges that are behind tournament organisation,’ said Djokovic.
‘It is great that we have a roof, obviously, on Philippe Chatrier this year, so those are the positive things and I look forward to it. I mean it’s one of the most important and one of the nicest tournaments in the world. I always enjoy playing there and I can’t wait to go back.’
Rafael Nadal, the defending champion of both the US and French Opens, is yet to commit.
However, fellow defending champ Bianca Andreescu announced her intentions to play.