3 reasons it won’t be the same for the winner of the 2020 US Open

The USTA recently announced that it will go ahead and host the US Open this year from August 31st to September 13th. Some of the notable changes due to the pandemic include: no fans, fewer lead up tournaments to the US Open, no Qualifying Tournament, and a reduced doubles draw size.

Every tennis fan around the world is very happy to hear this news. However, there will forever be an asterisk to the winner of this year’s US Open. There are three leading factors for this:

  1. No Fans. Some players like Novak Djokovic and Nick Kyrgios level of play change with the crowd. Certain players, most notably non-American players, will have a greater advantage as in most US Opens the American players are heavily favored by the crowd. This US Open is an opportunity for the USTA to innovate and really invest into a social experience for the millions of the tennis fans watching remotely. The USTA needs to make the viewing experience feel more connected than the usual TV experience.
  2. Players are less practiced and more healthy. Usually the last grand slam of the year, many of the players enter the US Open not as fresh as the beginning of the year. This is a double edged sword because the players will have less practice in match stress situations but because of the lack of tournament match play will have less injuries. This lack of tournament play and less injuries will favor certain players and hurt others. Therefore, the tournament likely would not have led to the same result if we weren’t in a global pandemic.
  3. Not all players will be there. The Qualifying Tournament was cancelled. The qualifiers in the tournament make the early round matches exciting because they create upsets. Upsets have huge impacts on the rest of the tournament. I do not argue that the average quality of play will change significantly without the qualifiers, but the tournament will not be the same.

To be clear, the three leading factors are largely not adjustable. I agree that the US Open must make tradeoffs to keep tennis fans, the players, and the greater public healthy. However, the USTA needs to be aware of the impact of these changes and innovate to alleviate the above impacts by adjusting the TV viewing experience. The Western & Southern Open will also happen this year before the US Open. It is a great opportunity for the USTA to test new strategies to engage fans more at home. The number of tests during the Western & Southern Open will be a great indicator of whether the USTA is thinking ahead and planning to engage viewers at home in new interesting ways.

Why tennis players should learn to string rackets

Every competitive tennis player should learn to string a tennis racket. However, every tennis player does not necessarily need to string their own racket. Tennis players often think learning to string a tennis racket means buying a tennis stringer and stringing all of their own rackets because of the following benefits:

  • Financial – after the upfront cost for the stringer, you no longer need to pay for the labor for someone else to string your racket. 
  • Fast restring turnaround time – you as the stringer have direct control over when the racket gets restrung.
  • More convenient – you no longer need to drop off and pick up rackets.

However, there are two other benefits often forgotten about that come with learning to string your own rackets:

  1. Customize and experiment – as the person stringing the racket, you have the opportunity to experiment with different tensions. Instead of stringing the mains and crosses the same tension, you can experiment with tighter crosses than mains. Many argue online that stringing the crosses tighter than the mains increases the “sweet spot”. You can even go a level deeper by stringing the mains and crosses at the center of the racket at a different tension. Sure, you can ask your professional stringer to do this, but unless you have a string tension tester you cannot verify.
  2. Evaluate stringing quality – have you ever gotten back a freshly restrung racket and broken the string in less than 15 min? If so, it is likely the person stringing the racket has “burned” the strings. When weaving the string over the crosses, if you pull through too quickly in the same spot you will wear down the strings. It can be difficult to tell on poly strings if the string was burned, but if you knew how to string your own racket, you would know why the strings broke so quickly and identify when strings were “burned”.