US Open organisers say they could have better communicated with wheelchair athletes before announcing they would not be part of this year's scaled-down event in New York and are now rethinking their decision.
Australian Paralympic tennis champion Dylan Alcott led a chorus of backlash after plans revealed on Wednesday for this year's US Open did not include a wheelchair competition, one of several changes to help stem the spread of COVID-19.
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Alcott's outrage was echoed by many in the tennis world, with Andy Murray among the star's of the game to hit out at the blatant "discrimination" against disabled athletes.
The Australian wheelchair champion took to Twitter on Thursday morning to express his frustration after learning he will not be able to compete at Flushing Meadows in August.
Alcott also called out the US Open on Channel Nine’s ‘TODAY’ show, taking aim at officials in a fiery spray on Friday.
“This sets a really dangerous example for people all around the world that we are second rate citizens and we aren’t worth as much as our able-bodied counterparts.” Dylan Alcott has slammed the organisers of the U.S. Open for dropping wheelchair tennis. #9Today pic.twitter.com/cpB1l5zDnf— The Today Show (@TheTodayShow) June 18, 2020
"I saw online some incredible support for what we're doing, which is nice," Alcott told the program.
"I was angry yesterday, but now I'm just really sad.
"To not be given that opportunity, or not being given the choice to be able to go, or not being consulted on whether we want to go, purely because we have a disability.
"That decision was made for us purely because we have a disability, and they still haven't told us a reason why, and they don't plan to.
"It really upsets me to not be a part of the decision making process.
The United States Tennis Association (USTA) held a call on Friday with wheelchair tennis leadership during which they stated they should have worked in a "collaborative manner" with wheelchair athletes when developing the plan for the US Open.
Officials from the USTA indicated that they were exploring options to include staging wheelchair competition at the New York grand slam, in the wake of the backlash.
US Open considers staging wheelchair competition
"The USTA also committed to working with the players and the ITF (International Tennis Federation) to explore a number of potential scenarios for the wheelchair competition," the governing body said in a statement.
"The USTA expects to gather player feedback on their perspective and work with the ITF to finalize an approach to the 2020 U.S. Open Wheelchair Competition."
Alcott said former World No.1 Murray was just one of tennis’ high-profile stars to reach out and offer support following news the US Open was scrapping the wheelchair events.
"I actually spoke to Andy Murray on the phone for 30 minutes last night, and he's publicly backed us, which is awesome,” he added.
"I know a lot of the top players, the likes of Federer and Novak are reaching out internally to try and help because they love wheelchair tennis and they support us as well.”
Alcott also tweeted and thanked Murray for his support.
Big thanks to Andy Murray for supporting us wheelchair players publicly, and many other top able bodied players supporting us behind the scenes to get us wheelchair players to the US open. Andy, you’re a ledge on and off the court 🤙🏼 https://t.co/7kFDsAMu43— Dylan Alcott (@DylanAlcott) June 18, 2020
“Big thanks to Andy Murray for supporting us wheelchair players publicly, and many other top able bodied players supporting us behind the scenes to get us wheelchair players to the US Open. Andy, you’re a ledge on and off the court,” he wrote.
The other changes announced for the Auguse 31-September 13 US Open are no singles qualifying for able-bodied players, the elimination of mixed doubles and junior competitions and smaller fields for men's and women's doubles.