(Reuters) – U.S. Open organisers said on Wednesday they will include a wheelchair tournament at this year’s Grand Slam following a player backlash over their decision to scrap the event as part of measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The United States Tennis Association’s announcement comes five days after the national governing body said it was rethinking their decision and that it could have better communicated with wheelchair athletes.
“The decision was made following multiple virtual meetings with a group of wheelchair athletes and the International Tennis Federation over the last week,” the USTA said in a statement.
“The 2020 U.S. Open Wheelchair Competition will feature men’s and women’s singles and doubles and quad singles and doubles, with draw sizes similar to past U.S. Opens.”
Australian Paralympic tennis champion Dylan Alcott, who led the player backlash and had described the exclusion as “disgusting discrimination”, thanked organisers for reversing the decision.
“I was in tears (when the event was excluded),” the twice U.S. Open champion said on Australia’s Channel Nine.
“It was just because it was so hard sometimes, growing up with a disability, where able-bodied people decide which restaurant you go in to, which school you go in to, which tennis tournaments you can play.
“It’s a huge turning point to show how supportive a community can be and from the bottom of my heart, I can’t say thanks enough.”
The changes at this year’s U.S. Open in New York include no spectators, reducing the number of teams in the men’s and women’s doubles events by half, and the elimination of the mixed doubles and juniors competitions.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Additional reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Toby Davis / Peter Rutherford)