Jamie Murray loves New York, where he has won four grand slam doubles titles, but he is seriously considering staying in Europe when the rescheduled US Open begins on 31 August. He suspects he will not be alone.
The tournament and the city are yet to move convincingly from under the cloud of the coronavirus pandemic and Murray is inclined to join Rafael Nadal, the defending singles champion, and the world No 1 Novak Djokovic, who have said they will probably stay away from Flushing Meadows. If the leading players do not turn up, there are more opportunities at the highest level for their lesser rivals, but diminished glamour.
Britain’s world No 146, Harriet Dart – who plays in front of the BBC cameras at the new Progress Tour at the National Tennis Centre from 14 to 16 July – said on Thursday: “If I get the opportunity, I definitely will be going there.” She is also likely to play in Murray’s mixed team event at the Roehampton complex from 27 July to 2 August, although he has yet to finalise TV coverage.
The pandemic is forcing athletes across scores of disciplines to consider the safety and comfort of home, and Murray – who won his breakthrough men’s doubles title at the US Open four years ago with Bruno Soares, and added a hat-trick of mixed championships, once with Martina Hingis and twice with Bethanie Mattek-Sands – admits the Gotham roar has lost its allure in the age of Covid-19.
“I’d imagine it would be very difficult for the ATP to support the US Open going ahead if the draw has to quarantine coming back to Europe,” he said. “I am sure there will be some interesting conversations to be had in the next few weeks.
“A lot will depend on what you can do once you finish the tournament in terms of getting to Europe. If I have the option of playing one Masters series [the Cincinnati Open] and one grand slam [the US] – or two Masters series [Madrid and Rome] and one grand slam [the French Open] because of quarantines – then I will choose two Masters series and one grand slam. You cannot do both.”
His younger brother, Andy, says his sights remain trained on New York, where he won the first of his three grand slam singles titles.
Jamie said: “It seems they have regressed in the States and there are a lot more cases coming up again. Certainly other states have been struggling. The curve has been going back up. In New York they are talking quarantines for people from certain states. As a player, you want stability. We don’t have that. You cannot even book a flight to New York just now.”
Staying in Europe “seems like a less stressful option right now”, Murray said. “In Europe, as far as I am aware, it seems like they are a lot further along with the virus than America. In France they are talking about 40-60% fan capacity, which won’t be the case in America. I’d imagine the conditions will be a lot easier or maybe less stringent, more under control than in the States. That’s what is annoying.”
The mood darkened in New York overnight when the mayor Bill de Blasio said all large events requiring a permit would be cancelled until 30 September. While there was no specific mention of the tennis, which will be held behind closed doors, the USTA will be seeking urgent clarification.