The United States Tennis Association changed course and reinstated the wheelchair tournament at the 2020 US Open this week after outcry from players.
Dylan Alcott, the top-ranked quads men’s wheelchair tennis player in the world, called it “disgusting discrimination” when announced last Friday that qualifiers, juniors, mixed doubles and wheelchair events will not be played. The cuts were made to help slow the spread of COVID-19 at the annual Grand Slam in Queens, New York.
USTA reinstates wheelchair event
The USTA announced it would reconsider the decision and reinstated the event.
“The decision was made following multiple virtual meetings with a group of wheelchair athletes and the International Tennis Federation over the last week," the USTA said in a statement.
“The 2020 US Open Wheelchair Competition will feature men's and women's singles and doubles and quad singles and doubles, with draw sizes similar to past US Opens.”
Top-20 players in both the men’s and women’s rankings — such as Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer — lent their internal support, Alcott said. David Wagner, an eight-time Paralympic medalist, was a part of the virtual meetings and said it was a team effort to get it reinstated.
“It was a combined effort by a lot of athletes,” Wagner said, via the New York Times. “It was not just one athlete in particular preaching to their social media. It was a ton of athletes working for a common goal. I think we all grasped the gravity of the situation this year with the US Open, but we wanted to get a better grasp of the USTA’s decision-making process and try to get a better outcome.”
The US Open is scheduled to start July 31 with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s support. There will be no spectators allowed with several other precautionary measures in place.
Alcott thanks US Open for reinstating wheelchair event
Alcott brought the issue to national attention with a series of tweets last week. He followed up after the announcement and thanked the US Open for changing course.
Big thanks to the @usopen for reversing their decision - now allowing wheelchair players to compete at the 2020 Open. And most importantly thanks to you reading this for supporting us and sharing the message - you made this happen. pic.twitter.com/jHo0pbVpkC— Dylan Alcott (@DylanAlcott) June 24, 2020
This is a massive sign of progress for our community, and I appreciate all your help. I know there is a lot going on in the world at the moment, and the tournament might not even go ahead, but at least now we have the same rights as our able bodied counterparts - like we deserve— Dylan Alcott (@DylanAlcott) June 24, 2020
Alcott, a two-time US Open champion from Australia, said he was in tears when the event was excluded from the plans.
“It was just because it was so hard sometimes, growing up with a disability, where able-bodied people decide which restaurant you go in to, which school you go in to, which tennis tournaments you can play,” he said on Australia’s Channel Nine, via Reuters.
“It's a huge turning point to show how supportive a community can be and from the bottom of my heart, I can't say thanks enough."
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