USTA reduces US Open prize money in wake of Covid-19

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The winners of this year’s US Open singles and doubles competitions will receive less money than in 2019 due to the financial effects of the global Covid-19 pandemic.

The United States Tennis Association has announced that total player compensation of the tennis grand slam tournament will be reduced from $57.2m in 2019 to $53.4m this year, a drop of nearly $4m.

Both the men’s and women’s singles champions will earn $3m, a drop of $850,000 from last year, while runners-up will receive $1.5m instead of $1.9m. The only level where there is an increase is in first-round singles, where the prize money will go up five per cent from $58,000 to $61,000.

The prize money cuts are much deeper in the doubles competition, with men’s and women’s champions splitting $400,000, a drop of 46 per cent from last year’s $740,000.

The USTA has announced it will also provide $6.6m in additional relief grants and subsidies due to the decision to not hold the qualifying tournament and reduce the doubles draws. These funds will be allocated equally to the Women’s Tennis Association and Association of Tennis Professionals, which will then make the determination of how to distribute or utilize them.

Previously in 2020, the USTA contributed $1m to an international player relief fund.

“We’re proud to be able to offer a player compensation package that maintains nearly 95 per cent of the prize pool from 2019,” said USA chief executive Mike Dowse in a statement. “The prize money distribution for the 2020 US Open is the result of close collaboration between the USTA, WTA and ATP, and represents a commitment to supporting players and their financial well-being during an unprecedented time.”

The US Open is scheduled to be held on time and at its traditional location at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens, New York, from August 31 through September 13. Spectators will not be allowed, while there will only be a limited media presence.

The tournament is taking place without defending men’s champion Rafael Nadal, who has opted not to participate due to coronavirus concerns, as well as the injured Roger Federer. Three-time champion Novak Djokovic is on the entry list but it remains unclear if he will participate at this stage.

The last grand slam contested without either Federer or Nadal was the 1999 US Open.

Ashleigh Barty, the No. 1 women’s player, is also not participating but the women’s draw includes the likes of Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka, Karolina Pliskova, Sofia Kenin, and reigning champion Bianca Andreescu.

The Western & Southern Open is being held at National Tennis Center as part of a doubleheader. It will take place from August 21-28, also without spectators.

The global tennis circuit remains in complete flux, however. This year’s Madrid Open, an event on both the ATP and WTA tours, has been called off amid rising concerns over the Covid-19 pandemic.

The tournament had been slated to begin on September 12, immediately after the finals of this year’s US Open and before the rescheduled French Open at the end of the month.

The USTA, though, remains bullish that the US Open will go ahead as planned.

“We remain confident that our top priority, the health and safety of all involved in both tournaments, remains on track,” the USTA recently said in a statement. “New York State continues to be one of the safest places in the country as it relates to the Covid-19 virus.”

In a series of strict health and safety protocols, the New York Times reported that players will be removed from the tournament and fined an unspecified amount if they leave the competition’s “bubble” environment without written permission.

Meanwhile, if a coach or player guest leaves the bubble, their credential will be revoked and they will be required to leave the tournament hotel within 24 hours. They would also be fined and prohibited from receiving a credential to the 2021 US Open.