The US Open is in full swing, with the stands being filled to 100% of their capacity. Masks are optional. Fans must prove that they have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, while many players choose not to be vaccinated.
Ben Rothenberg, a freelance reporter covering the tournament for the New York Times, says athletes in various sports have been slow to get vaccinated. “But tennis players are on a whole new level. Only about 50% of the men and women at the US Open, in terms of players, will have been vaccinated by now, according to statistics provided by both the men’s and women’s tours.
He explains the skepticism and disinterest of tennis players: “Some of them just think they are healthy young athletes and don’t need them, and why would they take something they think of as being risky aimlessly? … Some had real reasons for being slower to get it, whether it was travel, you know, tennis players are very nomadic, going from different cities every week, from different countries. And so if… one of the vaccines requires different doses at different intervals, it can be difficult to do. “
At the same time, he points out that tournaments are increasingly offering on-site vaccines for players, but vaccination delays are a major source of frustration for sports administrators.
Positive cases have emerged among American Coco Gauff (who missed the Olympics) and Briton Johanna Konta (missed the Olympics and Wimbledon). Frenchman Gilles Simon, who is not vaccinated, had to quarantine himself for 10 days in his hotel room because his trainer tested positive.
Meanwhile, Rothenberg says Novak Djokovic has dominated the sport, having won three Grand Slams this year and beating Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros. “[There are] a lot of high expectations for him, and we’ll see how he handles the pressure in the future.
On the women’s side, 2021 Wimbledon winner Ash Barty also has a good chance of winning the US Open title, Rothenberg predicts.
“She has been very solid this year, accumulating the titles. She won the Cincinnati tournament just a few weeks ago. And so I think she’s becoming … the most reliable number one, in terms of bankable to win titles and compete week after week. … It’s a very open field, but I think Barty would be the favorite at this point.
He says that in general he looks forward to the US Open being himself again.
“It was really a shell in itself last year. And see what the crowds bring [this year] – the type of energy. … We haven’t had our first night game yet – it’s always a special scene here. And having Naomi Osaka, I think, playing in Monday’s opening session is pretty cool, especially since it’s her first Grand Slam since her problems at Roland Garros. She retired from this tournament with mental health issues and anxiety about giving press conferences. I think she will be warmly welcomed here.