On this week's episode, host Jon Wertheim talks with USTA chief executive and U.S. Open tournament director Stacey Allaster about the protocols and new rules in place for the 2020 U.S. Open, set to start on Aug. 31 in New York. Allaster shares the details and regulations of the tournament's COVID-19 testing; the protocols of the bubble in New York; the USTA's new regulations on messages of social justice on their attire and shoes; what the event will look like as compared to years past; and much more.
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The following transcript has been lighted edited for clarity.
Jon Wertheim: Before I ask you about the testing, I saw an e-mail about the social justice apparel and this exception. Tell me a little bit more about that and what inspired that decision, besides the obvious?
Stacey Allaster: It's obviously a very significant and important issue in our country. And, as Adam Silver said, we can't ignore it. And the USTA is not going to ignore it. And then we started to see athletes wanting to express themselves around social causes. And we got a sneak peek of that in World TeamTennis. And so we were proactive. And we went to both tours and said, How are you going to manage it for your events? And then, as you know, it's not permitted within the Grand Slam rulebook. So we then worked with the Grand Slam chairman and the two tours to come up with a 2020 exemption to the rulebook that would allow athletes, at their choice, to express themselves with the classical three-inch patch on the on the shirt or something on the shoe. And so it's available to them if they if they would like to do that. And they could also wear a jersey or a t-shirt during the warm up. So there's some flexibility of application.
JW: Have you seen any applications so far?
SA: I have only seen—it's unofficial—one athlete who I know who wants to do something on their shoe, but I haven't seen anything official yet.
JW: In Lexington, there was a Black Lives Matter placard on the signage. Will those be there on the court?
SA: There will be a number of different signage elements around Arthur Ashe Stadium that will range from social justice causes, tributes to first responders. And everyone here in New York. Get out and play. So we're definitely going to have a special Open with many elements to it.
JW: So let's talk about the testing situation. The players arrived. Past tense. What happened already?
SA: So as soon as the players arrived, they essentially went right to the medical testing center. And it took about 15 minutes, 20 minutes for the first one, just doing some paperwork and administrative, the actual administration of the test is very, very quick. The tests that we're using is a gold standard, PCR, and it's called the PCR anterior nares. And the way for us all to understand that, it's the one that goes midway up the nasal. It doesn't go all the way up the nasal pharyngeal. We have the benefit of now a lot of research on the accuracy of the anterior nares. And the doctors are comfortable. It's producing similar accuracy results as the nasal pharyngeal. And it's just a lot more comfortable, especially when the athletes and myself and any of us working, we're tested frequently.
So that first test happens. And then basically they've got a wristband, which means they're in isolation. And they were escorted to their rooms and they were in their isolation until they received an alert that they had a negative result during that time. What was it like and what was the experience like? So day one, we had three hundred people check into the hotel on Saturday, August 15, as players and their guests. I'd say there was probably 150 Uber Eats orders. And those just kept coming. They weren't permitted to come down and get them. So we had staff who were running things up and Chipotle and Cheesecake Factory were the number one and number two favorites.