Rafael Nadal at last year's Italian Open in May. This year it will be in September, but will Nadal be there to play?. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Rafael Nadal at last year's Italian Open in May. This year it will be in September, but will Nadal be there to play?. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)|Associated Press
Tennis

ATP announces tennis schedule relaunch with, dates for D.C., Cincy (aka NYC), the U.S. Open, Kitzbuhel, Madrid, Rome and the French Open

It all starts Aug. 14, but we could see a splintered Tour.

Neal Abrams

Neal Abrams

Both the ATP and the WTA have announced the reopening of their respective Tours beginning in August, just six weeks away. The ATP says its first tournament will start on Aug. 14, when the men will play the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. The WTA, will start almost two weeks earlier, with its first tournament on Aug. 3, on clay, in Italy, at the 31 Degrees Palermo Ladies Open.

After the D.C. tournament, the men will travel north to New York City, where the ATP will hold both the Western & Southern Cincinnati Masters 1000 (yes, in New York, Aug. 21-Aug.30), followed immediately by the two week U.S. Open (Aug. 31-Sept. 13), without its customary qualifying rounds.

There was to have been a week free after the Open for the men to hustle over to Europe and practice their clay court games for the 2020 French Open, now scheduled for Sept. 20—Oct. 4. But a change in the men’s schedule will have a small ATP 250 tournament start on Sept. 8 in Kitzbuhel, Austria (yes, right in the middle of the U.S. Open).

The men who lose early in New York may be able to play Kitzbuhel, or, more likely, those Europeans who choose not to play in America will have a place to practice on clay, and get some much-needed match-play under their belts to prep for the French, which will start its main draw on Sept. 27, after a week of qualies.

Additionally, in between the end of the U.S. Open and the start of the French Open main draw, two ATP 1000 tournaments which had previously been postponed because of the coronavirus are now back. The Madrid Open, an ATP 1000 event, will be held beginning Sept. 13, and the Italian Open, another ATP 1000 event, will begin on Sept. 20 in Rome, and will coincide with the French Open Qualifying rounds.

It's still unclear where players will end up playing, but it is clear that no ATP player will be able to play all four: the U.S. Open, the Madrid Open, the Italian Open, and the French Open. What I find more likely, since the last three are all played on red clay and the former is played on hard courts, is that the tour will almost be divided. Those headquartered in the U.S. and North American will likely try to play the the American tournaments, then possibly fly to Paris for the French Open. For those pros headquartered in Europe and Great Britain, I could see them possibly trying to play the U.S. Open and then make it back to Europe in time to play the French, and possibly the Italian. But more likely, I could see the European players skipping the American leg of this summer’s Tour entirely to practice their game on clay, and then enter the tournaments in Madrid, Rome and Paris, with some choosing to enter Kitzbuhel, too.

With a lot of the postponed tournaments fighting to find a place on a reworked Tour schedule, we’ll more than likely see a Tour splintered by date and location. We may even get to see rescheduled events that didn’t take place earlier, in both Indian Wells, Calif., and Miami, Fla., but at this point that could be a long shot. One thing’s for sure: We are most likely not going to see all of the top pros play in the same tournament this year, with the possible exception of Roland Garros, which would give a big boost to tennis in Paris, and the French economy as a whole.

What happens after that is more complex, with concurrent tournaments scheduled to take place in Asia for a number of different events including the Shanghai Rolex Masters, and then back to Europe again for the Rolex Paris Masters on Nov. 1, the ATP Finals in Turin on Nov. 14, and some other smaller events which are currently still scheduled. The fate of the Rogers Cup in Toronto, currently on the schedule for an Aug. 9 start, which would be before the new Tour is set to open up, and the Winston-Salem Open, now showing with an Aug. 22 start, is still unknown

The women’s calendar is equally jumbled and also leaves a lot of unanswered questions, which I will cover in my next article.

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