MUMBAI (Reuters) – Athletes will not feel 100% safe until a vaccine for the novel coronavirus is available and the U.S. Open should only proceed if all qualified players are able to travel to the Grand Slam, American doubles specialist Rajeev Ram has said.
Professional tennis was suspended in early March as countries went into lockdown to contain the spread of the virus and the season will not resume until early August.
Wimbledon was cancelled for the first time since World War Two while the French Open was postponed to September.
Organisers of the U.S. Open, which is scheduled to begin at the end of August in New York, are continuing with their plans for the hardcourt Grand Slam and a decision is expected to be taken this month.
“I don’t see players feeling 100% safe without a vaccine because there would always be a risk of contracting the virus,” Ram, who won his first Grand Slam men’s doubles title at the Australian Open this year, told WION TV.
“The virus is so contagious and in any kind of sport, athletes are always in close contact with their peers … There is always going to be a risk without a vaccine.
“I don’t think the U.S. open or any event will take place if a certain number of players feel uncomfortable or unsafe while playing.”
Media reports have said the United States Tennis Association is considering flying players in by chartered flights and hosting the tournament with no fans in attendance.
“We can’t have the U.S. Open until everyone who has qualified for the event is in a position to travel to the event, until that happens we are going to be at a standstill,” said Ram, who also won the Olympic silver in mixed doubles in 2016.
“For the tournament to take place, a safe and secure environment must be created and the competition should also be fair on all tennis players.”
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Toby Davis)