The men’s and women’s pro tours have suspended play through July 13 because of the danger posed by the novel coronavirus pandemic. That, in effect, wiped out what remained of the clay-court season and the upcoming grass-court swing, including Wimbledon, which on April 1 was canceled for the first time since World War II.
The day after that announcement, Wimbledon’s outgoing chief executive, Richard Lewis, told the Guardian newspaper that he felt it was possible that no more tennis would be contested in 2020.
But if the sport’s governing bodies decide it’s safe to restart the season in late summer, the Citi Open may end up a beneficiary.
The Citi Open is the first of a three-tournament swing of North American hard-court tournaments that typically serve as a tuneup for the U.S. Open, helping players acclimate to the heat, humidity and fast courts associated with the calendar’s final major.
U.S. Open officials have said they are also proceeding with plans to hold the tournament as scheduled, Aug. 31-Sept. 13, while exploring contingencies. The USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, which hosts the two-week event, is being converted to a 350-bed temporary hospital as New York battles its coronavirus crisis.
As it stands, the Citi Open would start three weeks after the earliest date that men’s and women’s tournaments could resume, barring an extension of the current suspension of play.
With the 2020 Tokyo Olympics now postponed one year, the 2020 Citi Open, if contested as scheduled, also might attract some of the top players who had planned to compete in the Summer Games.
Ein, a Washington-based venture capitalist who also owns the Washington Kastles World Team Tennis franchise, acknowledged that having to cancel the Citi Open in his second year of managing the event would be costly.
“If the tournament is canceled, we would lose a lot of money,” Ein said, “but the health and safety of everyone in our community is the higher priority. We would hope that doesn’t happen. But if it does, it’s because it’s the right thing to do.”
Rescheduling the Citi Open for later in 2020 would be difficult, Ein conceded, given the sport’s crowded calendar.
French Open officials angered fellow tournament organizers and many players by seizing the Sept. 20-Oct. 4 window to stage their postponed Grand Slam with minimal consultation. Those dates conflict with the Laver Cup, a star-studded, team-format event co-founded by Roger Federer and Tennis Australia. The new dates, starting just one week after the U.S. Open ends, also represent an unprecedented burden for top players because they are now expected to contest four weeks of Grand Slam events on two radically different surfaces in a five-week span.
The men’s field for the 2019 Citi Open, which was won by Australia’s Nick Kyrgios, included eight current or former top-10 players: Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, David Goffin, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, John Isner, Milos Raonic and Marin Cilic.
While the 2020 Citi Open’s men’s field hasn’t been unveiled, the women’s event has received a commitment from Coco Gauff, the breakout star of the 2019 season.
Given the uncertainty of the 2020 tennis calendar, Citi Open officials have put ticket-marketing operations on hold.