US Open Tennis with Covid-19

This US Open is certainly very different, there is a player bubble implemented. No spectators will be present which may or may not influence the outcome. Players at this year's Open must draw on their internal strength both mentally and physically to win.

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The US Open has begun.

This US Open is certainly very different, there is a player bubble implemented. No spectators will be present which may or may not influence the outcome. Players at this year's Open must draw on their internal strength both mentally and physically to win. In 2019, the US Open saw 737,872 fans attend the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. This year will see 0.

Will players that draw on the crowd for energy fall short? How will it be watching on TV? Spectator energy has been proven to assist players with a home advantage. In the case of Novak Djokovic, 17 Grand Slam winner, dealing with crowds provides him with energy and dealing with unfavorable ones is his forte.

Crowd advantage for Novak, will it level the playing field?

“Sometimes, you know, the crowd is on your side, the majority of the crowd is on your side, and sometimes it’s against you. It’s something throughout my career I had to learn how to handle, how to accept, and how to deal with that,” explained Novak.

“I was kind of trying to transform the chanting into Novak, when I heard [them yelling] Roger, that’s really what I try to do. It really works mentally in these kinds of moments,” said Novak.

The 22-year-old, 6th ranked Greek, Stefanos Tsitsipas was recently interviewed about the topic. “It's going to create a more equal space for any player. It is going to be challenging. I think it benefits the lower-ranked players.”

With it being so long since any players have played matches without spectators. Tsitsipas said, “I think last time was when I was 12, 11 years old… I think it's going to be challenging for most players, especially for the top players, which are used to having a big fan base, being [surrounded] by fans cheering their name, having people that love them when they play.”

Milos Raonic, The big-serving Canadian who is ranked 30th believes the lack of noise could provide other distractions. “On the outside courts, you’ll hear balls bouncing or the reactions from players on the courts next to you, but players will learn to deal with it.”

The 2020 US Open has partnered with pioneering computer company IBM. This year their role has taken on a slightly different twist. IBM will add cheering sounds during the games played at Arthur Ashe Stadium and Louis Armstrong stadiums. There will be recorded cheers from the moment they enter the stadium. Lew Sherr, the chief revenue officer of the United States Tennis Association, aims for the sounds to be as accurate as possible.

“Working closely with IBM to create something unique,” Sherr said. Using past audio, IBM will compare the point with one that happened previously. Say if Serena Williams serves an ace, the computer system will seek a crowd reaction from a similar moment that has occurred in the past. This concept should be interesting for players as they’ll be hearing the sounds without the human aspect, without seeing anyone in the stands.

So will the sounds played be enough to substitute the real thing, or will the higher-ranked players struggle without the support they’re so accustomed to? We are all about to find out.