The 2020 US Open comes at the normal time in the calendar, but the year's second major comes at a time where there is unrest in the country and the world. A pandemic that has ravaged the globe and social unrest in the United States will have this major being watched closely given the circumstances.
There was some controversy surrounding whether the US Open should happen or not, however, the USTA looks like they've done a fine job with their "bubble" even with Benoit Paire testing positive today, forcing the Frenchman's withdrawal.
No fans, a lot of internal and external unrest, a pandemic. This year's US Open is going to be quite a unique experience.
Naomi Osaka Leads The Way
After the Milwaukee Bucks protested their fifth game against the Orlando Magic, the rest of the NBA followed suit on Wednesday night with their games being canceled. The trickle-down effect began as Thursday's games were canceled as well, followed by teams from other leagues such as the WNBA, MLS, and MLB.
Tennis is a country-club sport, a sport that is predominantly white. Naomi Osaka, who is known to be quite shy and said herself "more of a follower than a leader", when talking to ESPN, became the leader and advocate for saying she would protest her Thursday match against Elise Mertens at the Western and Southern Open.
For someone that's not a leader, it was quite the statement. It resonated through the tennis community. The Western and Southern Open called off Thursday's matches, but Osaka was ready to take her protest to greater lengths than just one day. The USTA and WTA talked to her and convinced her to play.
Tennis needed a leader and a voice for this movement, they found it with Osaka.
Djokovic, Pospisil, and the PTPA
Much of the time spent away from the courts during the pandemic has seen multiple shifts in the idealogy of tennis unions. Months ago, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal opened up the idea of forming a union with both men and women.
A number of ATP players felt the leadership within the tour was not the best as many openly stated on Twitter they were kept in the dark or just disappointed with how leadership has dealt with everything going on in the pandemic.
The last straw was when ATP CEO Massimo Calvelli decided to call off Thursday's matches very abruptly as Novak Djokovic stated in his letter. There was no consultation and the quick decision put off Djokovic and Vasek Pospisil, who then stepped down from their roles as the main representatives of the ATP Players Council and formed the Professional Tennis Players Association, a players-only union.
There are no women in this union "yet", but as we'll see these next two weeks, this will be yet another major talking point along with the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Federer, Nadal, Kevin Anderson, and more immediately sided against it, and when asked, the likes of Andy Murray, Stefanos Tsitsipas, David Goffin, and more, have gone against it given the nature of "too many question marks or not enough information".
The ATP sees this as a threat as seen in their response here and brings to light a lot of questions that the PTPA has left unanswered.
Sports to some is an escape, but it intersects with the world outside of it. Rightfully, the players have been voicing their concerns for both the Black Lives Matter movement, and the return to tennis Usually, the on-court action plays a major part in the storyline for a Grand Slam. This time, it's going to properly share the spotlight with plenty of news outside of what's going on in the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.