August 11, 2020

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TWA Hotel out, Long Island Marriott in for US Open players

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The TWA Hotel, a space-age construction in the shadow of JFK Airport, had been announced as the official hotel for players at the upcoming US Open.

It was, you know, pretty cool given the players’ predilection for staying in upscale Manhattan hotels (complete with freebie rooms) during the American Grand Slam event.

But as the preparations and arrangements for what is now an optimistic plan to go ahead with the event evolve on a near-daily basis, that venue has been scrapped.

The official tournament hotel for the players, as the detail sheet for the event and additional guidance for players was finally made available to this week, and obtained by Open Court, is now the … Long Island Marriott.

It is a rather more pedestrian arrangement, which won’t please the players much. They will, however, survive just fine.

WIth 599 regular rooms and 16 suites (sure to be battled over), the Marriott has about 100 more rooms (and more double rooms) than the TWA.

Its location is even less-scenic – it’s right next to the Nassau Country Coliseum, which isn’t much of a view.

Not exactly a scenic view. But on the plus side, not much temptation to wander outside the hotel bubble (Pic: Marriott.com)

On the plus side – there’s a Starbucks across the road. Although since the players aren’t supposed to leave the hotel other than to to the tournament site – and there will be security trying to ensure that doesn’t happen – that’s cruel.

Starbucks, Chipotle and Mickey D’s within walking distance of the Long Island Marriott.

Private housing still available

The commute from the Long Island Marriott to the site is longer than from the original hotel. Distance wise, it’s 20 miles (compared to 10). Ideal traffic conditions might take a half-hour; at various times of the day, it could be a lot more.

For the players who really need some nicer carpeting, the US Open is still making the private housing option available.

But the number of homes is limited – once they are spoken for, the hotels are the only options. The players can’t go rogue on renting a home, or stay with friends. And any guests or team members in those homes will also be subject to COVID testing protocols.

We’ve all stayed in hotel rooms with a carpet that looks just like this one, amirite? (Pic: Marriott.com)

When the Marriott fills up, the second player hotel is the Garden City Hotel – which looks a little more upscale, and for which the nightly rate is higher.

At any rate, the carpeting is nicer.

Fairly sweet digs, if you have to be out on Long Island (Pic: Garden City Hotel website)

The Garden City Hotel is closer to the site (some 14 miles). But it also is a tougher route on the way back.

There are a couple of golf courses right nearby as well. But from the sound of it, they will be off-limits to the players.

This total isolation is going to be a real challenge to police, if previous exhibition events are any indication.

Golf!!!!

After the US Open – Europe

At this point, returning to Europe after the US Open and entering the countries that plan to host clay-court events (Spain, Italy, France et al) doesn’t appear to be a problem.

The tournament is advising players that any player, regardless of nationality – this is good news for the American players – will be allowed to enter Spain as “highly qualified employees” to play the Madrid tournament.

Players affected by the EU travel ban will be allowed to travel to France “subject to receiving an entry pass issued by the Inter-ministerial Crises Cell”, “to the extent the players come directly from a country which has not been cleared (like the U.S.) or Players transiting through another Schengen country (Spain and Italy) will be considered by the border police as coming from within the Schengen area”. The USTA will help facilitate the obtention of a health certificate to help the players enter Spain or France.

But the exemption of certain players from the 14-day self-quarantine directive remains far from a done deal. The USTA told players it “will continue to work with Federation partners and the WTA and ATP leadership to advocate for USO participants to be granted entry waivers in Madrid, Rome and/or Paris.”

The USTA is also providing the players with a letter of invitation; the Customs and Border Patrol will be cross-referencing players against the list of players submitted by the ATP and WTA Tours to the Department of Homeland Services to grant entry.

If the players (or their team members and family members) are not on that list, they can’t get in; you can see how this process may lead to some complications. The USTA will interface with the government authorities to solve any issues, but it recommends people fly into JFK Airport, where the customs officials have been specifically briefed.

The guidelines as set out by the state of New York are comprehensive.

And an additional wrinkle is the state’s requirement that people travelling from certain high-COVID U.S. states have to self-isolate for 14 days. Those include states where a lot of players live, including Florida, Texas and California. Yet to be determined how that works out.

Other COVID details

*The New York state guidelines and the current tournament plan allow each players one additional credentialed person to access the tournament site. But once all of the transport and testing procedures have been finalized, the players may be allowed two more guests on site (although, it appears, not in the competition areas). And the caveat for those guests is that they must be staying at one of the two hotels.

*The tournament is recommending the players also undergo antibody testing. But they are not making it mandatory.

*The players will be allowed to order in from Uber Eats at the hotels (Whew!)

*A maximum of 30 players will be allowed in the locker room at one time.

*Credentials will not be issued until the PCR nasal swab test comes back negative. Everyone will be re-tested approximately 48 hours later.

*If a player tests positive and is sharing a hotel room, they will be moved to a separate room. If he or she arrives between Aug. 15 and 18, and tests positive, they would be allowed to recover in isolation in their hotel room for the 14 days and, if the chief medical officer gives the go-ahead, could then continue to prepare for the tournament.

*The tournament defers to the local public health authority for contact tracing. But it has added RFID technology to the credential scanning system to help locate anyone a player has come in contact with.

The logistics surrounding this effort truly are off the charts. So many things can go wrong; it feels like it’s one piece of bad news away from the entire house of cards falling down – and all of this prep work being for naught.

The cancellation of the Citi Open, which takes place the week before the scheduled “Cincinnati” tournament within the US Open bubble, certainly wasn’t a positive sign.