Serena Williams is at the centre of ‘favouritism’ claims after it emerged the US Open has allowed her to have its new surface installed at her home tennis court.
On Thursday Serena confirmed her participation in the New York grand slam amid growing unrest from fellow players.
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And there’s also unrest among fans after it was revealed Serena might actually have an advantage over her opponents come August 31.
For the first time since 1978 the US Open will use a different court manufacturer - switching from DecoTurf to Laykold.
Tennis players won’t get a chance to play on the new surface for another two months, however Serena has been allowed to have it installed on a brand-new court at her home.
“I can confirm the surface provided by Laykold for the 2020 US Open and Western & Southern Open was shipped to Serena’s house,” said US Open tournament director Stacey Allaster.
“She’s got a new court in her backyard. So she has been training.
“She will be playing (in the tournament) and she’s excited to come back.”
Tennis writer Rene Denfeld was shocked by Allaster’s revelation.
“I am not sure why Allaster was quite so forthcoming about that. Ho hum,” he tweeted.
A number of other writers and pundits were also taken aback.
What?!— Fraser Caldwell (@fraser_caldwell) June 17, 2020
Can we at least PRETEND that this sport isn't completely rife with conflicts of interest? https://t.co/so9d6ex8pt
However others didn’t have a problem with the move.
You can pontificate all you like about 'fair' but there's nothing in the rules against it (& good luck enforcing that rule even if it existed lol). And it's not like it should be a surprise that ultra competitive athletes would seek to leverage their moat of success— Matthew Willis (@MattRacquet) June 17, 2020
Obviously an advantage only top players get as the costs are prohibitive. But is it any different to not needing to play a tournament a week before a slam for points / money so instead you can rock up and hit on Ashe for 10 days prior to the main draw? Not really.— Jonathan (@peRFectTennisUK) June 17, 2020
Based on what I've seen on my TL so far, I may be the only one NOT bothered by this.— Lee (@lee_tennis) June 17, 2020
1. No one in tennis history has won 24 Slams without an assist at their home Slam.
2. The US Open owes Serena for the blatant robbery in 2004.
We'll take it. https://t.co/jNvnEyRjBR
The surface is public knowledge, but it's composition isn't. Only USTA (and APT) will know that as they will request a certain pace.— Jonathan (@peRFectTennisUK) June 17, 2020
Sounds like she got base layers and top coats from the same batch as the new USO courts. Never gonna be totally like for like but certainly helps.
Latest controversy for US Open
Fears that strict health protocols due to the COVID-19 outbreak could deter the game's biggest names from competing at this year's US Open were somewhat allayed by Serena’s confirmation she will play the New York event.
Williams, in a video message played during a United States Tennis Association news conference to announce that the August 31-September 13 tournament will proceed without fans, said she misses the excitement of competition.
“Ultimately, I really cannot wait to return to New York and play the US Open 2020,” the seven-times champion said.
“I feel like the USTA is going to do a really good job of ensuring everything is amazing and everyone is safe.”
A number of top players, including world No.1s Novak Djokovic and Ashleigh Barty, along with reigning US Open men's champion Rafael Nadal, are among those who have expressed concerns about attending the US Open.
As part of the safety plan outlined by the USTA, testing will be conducted before travelling to the United States and one-to-two times per week at the event along with daily temperature checks.
During the US Open, which this year will not include a mixed doubles tournament, players and guests must wear masks when onsite unless practicing or competing and anyone who tests positive will be isolated.
According to the tournament organisers, players are allowed to rent homes in the New York area if they do not want to stay in one of the affiliated hotels but cannot stay in Manhattan.
Among the changes amid the virus, there will be linespersons for matches inside both Arthur Ashe Stadium and Louis Armstrong Stadium but none on the other courts, where a chair umpire will work with the electronic line-calling system HawkEye Live.
In further controversy, Australia’s Dylan Alcott blasted the US Open’s “disgusting discrimination” after it was decided to cancel the wheelchair event for 2020.