US Open ‘unlikely’ to be held without spectators in attendance, decision expected in June

The US Open Tennis Championships will either be held with fans in attendance, or won’t be held at all. That’s the message new USTA CEO Mike Dowse laid out in a conference call with reporters about the state of the the Grand Slam in New York in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Obviously our ambition is to run the tournament. It’s the engine that drives our organization, our governing body. Having said that, that won’t be the driving factor,” Dowse said, according to the Associated Press. “The driving factor will be the health and well-being of the players, the fans and our staff.”

The decision on whether to postpone or cancel the US Open outright will reportedly be made sometime in June. Dowse pointed out that time was on his organization’s side, but given the precedent that other Grand Slam tournaments have set, it doesn’t seem likely that the competition will proceed as usual. The French Open, for example, had its start postponed from May to September, while Wimbledon was canceled altogether — though stellar insurance helped the latter decision get made a lot more easily.

When specifically talking about the possibility of holding the competition without spectators, Dowse told reporters the USTA was “not taking anything off the table, but right now, I’d say that’s a highly unlikely scenario.” 

“Things are fluid,” he added, according to the AP. “If the medical experts come back and say, ‘Here is a foolproof way of running a very safe tournament; unfortunately, it has to be without fans,’ we may reconsider and look at it.”

Dowse also mentioned that the USTA is also reducing management salaries and eliminating player development programs to save around $15 million, becoming the latest major sports organization to use a salary-cutting approach to stave off the financial brunt of coronavirus-based suspensions.

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