No set guidelines for calling off US Open if COVID outbreak

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In this Sept. 3, 2017 photo, tennis fans move in and out of Arthur Ashe Stadium during the fourth round of the U.S. Open in New York. (Frank Franklin II/AP)

A player testing positive for COVID-19 will be dropped from the U.S. Open, but the U.S. Tennis Association has not established how many infected participants would force the Grand Slam tournament to be called off.

According to a 10 1/2-page "Player Q&A Update" sent out this week by the USTA, "There are no guidelines available to determine what number (of positive tests) will compel" the cancellation of the U.S. Open or the tournament that will precede it at Flushing Meadows this month amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Western & Southern Open, usually held in Cincinnati, is slated for the hard courts at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center from Aug. 20-28, followed by the U.S. Open from Aug. 31 to Sept. 13. No spectators will be allowed at either tournament.

As the USTA is moves forward, players are announcing withdrawals because of the pandemic.

No. 5 Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, a 2019 U.S. Open semifinalist, and No. 7 Kiki Bertens of Netherlands wrote on social media Friday that they won’t be in New York. They join a growing list of absentees that already included the No. 1-ranked woman, Ash Barty, the defending men’s champion, Rafael Nadal, and others such as Stan Wawrinka and Nick Kyrgios.

Bertens cited concerns about needing to quarantine when returning to Europe for clay-court tournaments in Rome and Paris that are scheduled for after the U.S. Open. Players have asked the USTA to provide a transit letter that would allow them to bypass a quarantine period when going from New York to Europe.

USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier said Friday his group and its representatives are in touch with the WTA, ATP, the French tennis federation and government officials in Italy and France about the issue.

"We are confident that working with this extended group, we will be able to get the assurances the players would like," Widmaier wrote in an email.

Among the coronavirus-related protocols explained in this week’s USTA update for players:

— Players and guests — up to three per entrant in singles — must pass two coronavirus nasal swab tests 48 hours apart after arriving, although they’re allowed to go to the tournament site if the first test comes back negative. "We anticipate results will be returned in 24 hours or less," the USTA document says.

— Antibody tests are encouraged, but not required. Those who test positive for antibodies will take follow-up COVID-19 tests every seven days; those with negative results for antibodies — or who aren’t checked — must take COVID-19 tests every four days for the rest of their time in the "bubble."

— Players need written permission from tournament director Stacy Allaster or the chief medical officer to leave the "bubble" established for both events at Flushing Meadows — otherwise, they’ll be fined and kicked out of the competition. If coaches or guests exit the "bubble," they’ll lose their 2020 credential and not be allowed to get one next year.

— Aside from two official hotels for players and their guests, there will be private housing available for rent. Anyone staying there will undergo the same initial testing procedures and then will need further nasal swabs every four days, the USTA said, "unless the medical team determines otherwise."

— Players staying at rental homes need to have — and pay for — 24-hour security, and the USTA "must be provided with access to the external security egress and ingress information for the duration of the time in the private housing."

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