The 2020 U.S. Open is analogous to trees falling in the woods. No one knows if they’ve made a sound.
There will be absolutely no noise from fans this summer. The novel coronavirus pandemic has made it prohibitive for spectators to attend the tournament. You won’t hear, “Please be quiet,” from the chair umpires during the next 10 days of matches.
Along with the marquee tennis players that annually appear at the U.S. Open, held at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center in Flushing, Queens, the excitement generated by the huge multinational crowd that walks over the grounds’ iconic wooden bridge or in front of the facility’s popular Unisphere, also makes this one of the world’s greatest sporting events.
Last year, the Open set an all-time attendance record of 737,872. Arthur Ashe Stadium, the largest of the venues on the grounds, seating 23,771, sold out 23 of 24 sessions.
Along with the 115,000 plus patrons that attended Fan Week, USTA events scheduled the week before the official start of the Open, last year’s total attendance was 853,227. A record number, and the first time it surpassed 850,000.
On an unfortunate note, the coronavirus has eliminated many of the seasonal summer jobs the Open provides. It has also caused many of tennis’s top players to forego competing in one of the sport’s four majors, notably Rafael Nadal and Bianca Andreescu, the men’s and women’s defending single champions. France’s Benoit Paire tested positive for COVID-19 and thus had to withdraw.
One of those seasonal summer workers who admittedly will miss being there is Yvette Bishop, a Westchester County resident who you would likely encounter if you sat in the wrong area of section 130 or 131.
“I’ll miss meeting the various media members this year and greeting all of those people, some that I see year after year,” said Bishop, who is friendly but firm when necessary.
“I’ve formed many friendships being there for five years. And to be honest with you,” she said with a chuckle, “it is sort of a power trip to kick people out of the seats that they don’t belong in, especially those who give us a hard time.”
The Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, showed up at the Open ready to enhance their already legendary resumes. They were joined by Naomi Osaka and Sloane Stevens, the 2018 and 2017 women’s singles winners respectively. Serena, 38, the younger of the Williams sisters, was the women’s singles runner-up last year, losing to Andreescu. She was also defeated in the finals in 2018, falling to Osaka. Serena is looking to win her 24th Grand Slam title and her 7th U.S. Open. Venus, 40, a two-time Open winner, taking back-to-back titles in 2000 and in 2001, won’t win a third.
On Tuesday, Venus was eliminated, losing in the opening round of the U.S. Open for the first time in her career, ousted by Karolina Muchova 6-3, 7-5. Sixteen-year-old CoCo Gauff, last year’s darling of the tennis world, also lost during the first round of play on Monday.
Novak Djokovic, a three-time Open winner, the last title coming in 2018, Daniil Medvedev, last year’s men’s singles runner-up, and Andy Murray, the 2012 men’s singles winner, also made the trek to New York. Murray’s match on Tuesday afternoon was one of the most competitive of the early part of the tournament, as he defeated Yoshihito Nishioka in five sets, losing the first two, 4-6, 4-6, 7-6, 7-6, 6-4.