Barty's concerns over US Open timing

John Pye
Ashleigh Barty is unsure if the 2020 US Open should go ahead as scheduled

Ash Barty has joined the ranks of high-profile players concerned over the staging of the US Open while there's still so much uncertainty around the coronavirus pandemic.

The women's world No.1 hasn't had the chance yet to defend her French Open title because all elite tennis competition is shuttered. She's already processed the fact there'll be no Wimbledon in 2020 but is still awaiting clarity on the US Open, which is scheduled to begin on August 31.

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, winners of the past eight men's major titles, have aired reservations about the potential restrictions on players, limits on player entourages and other changes being considered for the New York major.

Barty's fellow Australian Nick Kyrgios has also taken to Twitter to air his concerns.

"The ATP is trying to make the US Open go ahead. Selfish with everything going on at the moment. Obviously Covid, but also with the riots, together we need to overcome these challenges before tennis returns in my opinion," Kyrgios tweeted.

Women's No. 2 Simona Halep reportedly is also uncertain about playing.

"I have concerns too," Barty said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "I understand the tournaments are eager to run but keeping everyone safe has to be the priority."

A decision from the US Tennis Association's board about whether to hold the grand slam tournament in New York in August could be made as early as this week. The US has accounted for more than 115,000 of the almost 433,000 deaths globally from COVID-19, including more than 30,000 in the state of New York, according to date compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Djokovic last week told Serbia's state broadcaster RTS that most players he's talked to "were quite negative" about entering the US.Open and that for him, "as things stand, most probably the season will continue on clay at the beginning of September."

The French Open was postponed from a May start to late September because of the COVID-19 outbreak. Under usual circumstances, the US Open is the last of the four majors to be played in the season, when the tours go back to hard courts following the grass and clay-court swings.

US Open tournament director Stacey Allaster has said organisers have been trying to figure out how to "engage fans virtually," making it unlikely that fans - or at least large groups of fans - will be allowed to attend.

Under proposals to get the tournament started, players would need to prove they had tested negative for COVID-19 before travelling on charter flights the USTA would organise from a handful of cities. There would likely be daily health questionnaires and temperature checks, along with occasional nasal, saliva or antibody testing.

Barty said she's "still getting my head around what the tournament set up would be."

Australia closed its international borders in March and there's still travel restrictions domestically and strict physical distancing regulations, although restrictions are easing. Australia has recorded 102 deaths from 7,335 cases of COVID-19, but the infection rate is declining.

"I can't wait to get back out there and play but we have to make sure it's safe to do so first, not just for me but for my team," Barty said.