Australian Open champion Dylan Alcott was at the forefront of criticising the USTA for their failure to provide wheelchair athletes an opportunity to play at the tournament, and not addressing the sport at all. (Picture courtesy: Dylan Alcott/Twitter)
The United States Tennis Association (USTA), said they could have had better communication with wheelchair athletes before announcing that they will not be a part of this year's scaled-down event in New York. The organisers are now rethinking their decision.
In a statement the USTA said that CEO Mike Dowse, US Open tournament director Stacey Allaster and wheelchair tournament director Jo Wallen spoke on the telephone with players and wheelchair tennis leadership from the International Tennis Federation (ITF) to discuss a way ahead.
"On the call, the USTA acknowledged that the Association should have communicated directly, and worked in a collaborative manner, with the wheelchair athletes when developing the plan for the 2020 US Open, as it had done with both the ATP and WTA," the statement said.
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"The USTA expects to gather player feedback on their perspective and work with the ITF to finalize an approach to the 2020 U.S. Open Wheelchair Competition," the statement added.
The discussions have come after a huge backlash the USTA received having revealed that the US Open would go ahead in August. The organisers failed to announce any details for the wheelchair event.
2020 Australian Open champion Dylan Alcott led the criticism saying the omission was ‘blatant discrimination’ and the decision was made without consulting the players.
"I thought I did enough to qualify - 2x champion, number 1 in the world," the 10-time Grand Slam winner wrote on Twitter. "But unfortunately I missed the only thing that mattered, being able to walk. Disgusting discrimination."
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Reigning US Open singles and doubles champion (partnering with Alcott) Britain’s Andy Lapthorne, also expressed his disappointment over not being able to defend his titles, saying it was a ‘kick in the teeth’.
"It's really tough to take," the 29-year-old told the BBC. "We've had to battle for a lot over the years for what we've got right now," he said. "It just feels like we're going back years, and that's what hurts the most."
The International Paralympic Committee criticized US Open organizers for cutting the event. "We urge the organizers to rethink them because they may destroy years of wheelchair tennis work," IPC president Andrew Parsons said in a statement.
The USTA will give $3.3 million to each of the men's and women's tours to distribute to players who do not get the opportunity to participate in singles qualifying for a full, 64-team doubles draw.
Although the statement added that the USA and ITF are working with players to explore a number of potential scenarios for the wheelchair competition, details about proposals were not revealed.
Wheelchair athlete Stephane Houdet -- who won two of his four Grand Slam singles titles and four of his 18 Grand Slam doubles titles at the US Open -- tweeted about them. The were:
Cancel the 2020 competition and pay $150,000 in total compensation for all wheelchair athletes.
Play the US Open wheelchair tournament in October in Orlando.
Hold the competition in New York at the same time as the US Open but with a 5% reduction in compensation from 2019 ($325,000 in total).
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