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When tennis returns: No followers, less prize cash, rustiness

Madison Keys, the 2017 U.S. Open runner-up, has not performed an actual tennis match since January, so she was thrilled when a partial schedule was launched for the game’s true return after its coronavirus-forced hiatus.

“Halfway through the year, we’re (usually) all kind of thinking, ‘Oh, I’d love some weeks at home. Been on the road for so long. Those pressure moments in matches are so stressful’ and all of that,” mentioned Keys, certainly one of 16 ladies in an exhibition occasion in Charleston, South Carolina, subsequent week. “And now we’re all like, ‘Please put me on a center court, break-point down in the third, because I would love to have that feeling again.’”

Now that there’s a plan in place for top-level tennis to renew — beginning in August in Italy, then Washington, with Grand Slam motion to observe in New York, then Paris, assuming the COVID-19 outbreak permits — it’s time to think about methods during which the game will look completely different.

There gained’t be followers on the U.S. Open or probably wherever else on the outset. Players shall be vying for decreased prize cash, with as a lot as a 40% lower on the largest non-major tournaments. U.S. Open matches on all however two courts can have a chair umpire aided by digital line-calling, not line judges.

There absolutely shall be rustiness for gamers after such lengthy layoffs. Could be a string of athletes getting damage, too, if current exhibitions are any indication.

“I don’t think many of us — outside of having an injury, maybe — have gone this long without that level of competition,” mentioned Keys, an American presently ranked No. 13.

“It’s really difficult to keep practicing when you don’t really have a goal in mind,” Keys mentioned. “So being able to have some of these tournaments back on the calendar has been really great, even just for my mentality — just because I know I’m working for something.”

There are remaining unknowns and changes may happen earlier than anybody swings a racket at Flushing Meadows.

“For me, everything seems like it’s going to be different at the Open — and at all these tournaments. No fans. What’s the locker room situation? Where’s food? Transport? There’s just so many questions. And it’s not going to be like any other year, any other tournament, that we’ve played before,” mentioned Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who’s gained 9 ladies’s or blended doubles Slam titles and, like Keys, is taking part in in Charleston. “For me, personally, I don’t think all the questions are answered to my satisfaction.”

A take a look at some points:

FEWER FANS

The U.S. Tennis Association was definitive about having closed doorways, however the French Open and the 2 excursions are leaving open the potential of having a minimum of some on-site spectators in some unspecified time in the future this yr.

LESS MONEY

The WTA is slicing prize cash at its largest occasions by 30% if there are followers — and by 40% if there aren’t. The ATP’s Masters 1000s can have related reductions. While the WTA can have smaller drops for lesser tournaments — all the way down to 18% for its backside stage — the ATP’s share cuts shall be larger the smaller the match. The lack of ticket gross sales, hospitality suites and extra means the U.S. Open’s web earnings “will be down roughly 80%” to $40 million, USTA CEO Mike Dowse instructed The Associated Press. He mentioned participant compensation is down 9%.

RANKING POINTS

The WTA and ATP haven’t determined how they may deal with their rankings, which had been frozen when the excursions had been suspended in March. That willpower shall be primarily based on when play really resumes.

TRAVEL AND TESTING

No one is aware of for positive how such a global sport will fare as athletes hop from nation to nation. The USTA initially proposed chartering flights from across the globe and ensuring gamers had been COVID-free earlier than they traveled, however as an alternative determined to let individuals fly on their very own and get examined upon arrival at what match director Stacey Allaster is looking “U.S. Open World.” Testing and security protocols haven’t been introduced by the WTA or ATP.

___

More AP tennis: https://apnews.com/apf-Tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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