With players having been out of official competition since March, there has been discussion of changing the format of men’s singles matches at the U.S. Open from best-of-five sets to best-of-three sets to reduce players’ injury risk. But Allaster said that was not part of the U.S.T.A.’s current plan.
Both Arthur Ashe Stadium, the tournament’s main show court with nearly 24,000 seats, and the 14,000-seat Louis Armstrong Stadium would still be used even without fans. Both are fully wired for television and have retractable roofs that would allow for play to continue in case of rain.
With empty stands, ESPN, the tournament’s broadcaster, would need to innovate to create a compelling atmosphere, but the network has pushed hard for the Open to happen if it can be held safely.
“Out of crisis comes creativity. I’m not privy to any inside information, but I would imagine that there will be all sorts of new bells and whistles with no crowd,” said Patrick McEnroe, the former player and longtime ESPN analyst. “What about moving cameras? Or miking the players? If ever there were a time to try it, now would be it.”
The Bundesliga, the German soccer league that resumed last month without spectators on site, has used artificial crowd noise in its broadcasts to combat the emptiness.
ESPN could do the same at the Open. “Cheering can be piped in,” Allaster said. “We are learning from other sports as they go through this journey.”
The size of tennis entourages has ballooned since the 1990s, when it was considered unusual that Pete Sampras traveled with a personal trainer, Todd Snyder. The WTA already has indicated that if its circuit resumes this year, players will be asked to come to tournaments with just one person. The U.S. Open would also reduce traveling parties. “An athlete coming with four, five, six, seven people is obviously not going to be possible,” Allaster said.