Madrid Open ‘confident’ of allowing spectators for September event

hannahwilks in Madrid Open 18 Aug 2020
Novak Djokovic celebrates victory at a packed Caja Magica after the men’s final of the 2019 Madrid Masters (Photo by A. Perez Meca/AlterPhotos/ABACAPRESS.COM)

The Madrid Masters will follow the example of the French Open and allow spectators in the stands when it is played from 13-20 September.

Tournament director Feliciano Lopez said he was ‘very confident’ that the Mutua Madrid Open would be allowing spectators in to watch the tennis despite the ongoing global health crisis.

The Madrid Open, also known as the Madrid Masters, is one of the biggest events of the clay-court season and usually takes place in early May. But the COVID-19 pandemic plunged the tennis calendar into chaos, with tournaments abruptly shut down in early March and yet to resume.

Tennis is set to return in August, with a small number of European clay-court tournaments and events on American hard courts building up to the US Open, scheduled to take place from 31 August-13 September. But the US Open, and the Western & Southern Open to be played the week before at the same venue, will be taking place strictly behind closed doors.

The French Open, which took the controversial and unilateral decision to reschedule itself to the autumn and which will now be the climax of a compressed European clay-court season taking in Madrid, Rome and Paris, bucked the trend by announcing plans to have as much as 60% of Roland Garros’s capacity of spectators on site. Spectators will be required to wear masks when moving around the grounds. Current forecasts are for as many as 20,000 people to be on site during the tournament.

The Madrid Open, which takes place two weeks before the French Open from 13-20 September, is following suit, according to Lopez.

He told Essentially Sports:

‘We are very confident that we will be able to have some spectators. Yes, we are working on that with the Government of Madrid. We presented our protocols a few days ago.

‘The government, they were very happy, actually, they were very surprised of how strict is our protocols in terms of safety for the fans and especially for the players. We are very confident that we will be able to have some spectators.

‘If we don’t have another wave of COVID 19 during July and August, we are confident that we can have more percentages. Maybe we can have a little bit more if the situation continues to get better.’

Rafael Nadal has committed to playing at the 2020 Madrid Masters (Credit Image: © Legan P. Mace/SOPA Images via ZUMA Wire)

Some tennis tournaments which have been played in front of spectators have seen negative or even disastrous results. The Adria Tour, a series of exhibitions organized by world no. 1 Novak Djokovic, was abruptly cancelled after a slew of players and affiliated personnel tested positive for COVID-19. A tournament in Atlanta was the first American tournament to allow spectators, with US player Frances Tiafoe promptly testing positive for the virus.

Others have more cautiously allowed limited numbers of spectators, and as yet seen no negative effects.

Lopez echoed recent comments by French Open tournament director Guy Forget when he invoked the Adria Tour as a cautionary example.

‘Every tournament now needs to provide a lot of safety because after everything that happened in Serbia and some other tournaments. I know we are taking risks also when we decided to deliver the event. I think tennis needs to resume.

‘And if we do things properly, if we provide a good protocol for the players and fans, then I think we will be able to resume the tour and we as players will have the chance to compete again and I think this is what we need right now.’

The compressed schedule means that it will be difficult for players to compete at both the US Open and the Madrid Masters – the latter begins on the day of the men’s final at the former. But with plenty of top players expressing caution and scepticism about the prospect of travelling to the USA, it might be the Madrid Masters that comes off best in that tussle. Rafael Nadal, the defending US Open champion, has already committed to appearing at the Caja Magica in September, making it unlikely he will be playing in New York.