The US Open is happening: can players handle the physical challenge?
Now that the player field is set in New York and the players are settling into the bubble, our match points panel wonders whether players can actually handle the extreme stress of Grand Slam tennis after having so much time off this season.
Spending five months off the tour due to a global pandemic is no way to prepare for a Grand Slam, and yet the field at this year’s US Open has no choice. It’s go time in the Big Apple and those players that have elected to join the US Open bubble must somehow find mid-season form in the next two weeks.
It’s no small task says former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli. The Frenchwoman, part of our Match Points panel along with Noah Rubin and Ben Rothenberg, says some players – even the ones who’ve trained exceptionally hard – could be in for a rude awakening when the US Open begins.
“You can train as much as you want, there is no way you can replicate the stress of a match,” she said on Match Points #10. “The problem is your muscles can feel ready but actually when you are under stress your muscles have to work twice as hard just to make the same movements. And therefore because you haven’t been in that situation for almost six months, for a lot of players, your body just can’t cope with it.”
Rubin, the current ATP no 225, believes that the tournament should consider using a best-of-three format in the first week on the men’s side. Otherwise it’s just too big of an ask for players who have had little to zero competitive match play since March.
“It is ridiculous,” he says. “If this is actually going to be three out of five sets, we’re going to have injuries, people pulling out. Players are not prepared for what is happening.”
Bartoli agrees. She thinks best-of-five sets for the men will prove to be too great a challenge. She even wonders if the women will be able to handle playing several best-of-three matches over two weeks after such a long layoff.
“The stress on the body hasn’t been there for so long that you’re not ready for it,”Bartoli says. “Especially on hard courts, where the pressure on the joints is harder. We have to reduce the format, at least for the men. I don’t think we can for the women. We can allow more breaks during the matches. You can add an extra 30 seconds at every changeover.”