The Western & Southern Open in Queens, an annual U.S. Open tune-up, was switched from suburban Cincinnati to Flushing Meadows this week to make for a tighter bubble. Like the Open, the ATP event is fan-less, giving players the run of the spacious USTA National Tennis Center grounds. It’s a little unnerving for Novak Djokovic.
“I have seen a little glimpse from the central area of Flushing Meadows tennis center, and it’s a ghost town,’’ Djokovic said. “Not many people around. We’re not used to seeing it that way. The U.S. Open is arguably the tournament that has the best energy. The people just get involved so much. It’s going to be missed. It’s missed already. We can’t sit here and pretend like we are OK even without a crowd. We have to accept it, but I personally definitely hope that this is a temporary thing.”
Asked why he points toward each corner of the fan-less Grandstand court, Djokovic said, “It’s part of also me paying a tribute and a thanks to that match, to the court and to that occasion.”
Djokovic remains unbeaten in 2020 — 20-0 in a year interrupted by five months of inaction. Wimbledon was canceled and the French Open was moved until two weeks after the U.S. Open, which starts Monday.
Djokovic, who won the Australian Open in January, won’t rule out going undefeated in COVID-19-marred 2020.
“Look, anything is possible,’’ Djokovic said. “I don’t want to count that out, especially because we don’t know how the post-U.S. tour season is going to look like, whether we are going to play, whether there is going to be another lockdown in Europe. It’s not my goal, actually, to go unbeaten, but I wouldn’t complain if I do.’’
The transplanted Cincy event is using the tennis center’s third showcourt, Grandstand, instead of Arthur Ashe Stadium because of the ease in placing the signage from its usual sponsors around its perimeter. The U.S. Open draw is Thursday but the USTA scrapped the usual ceremony and will issue a press release.