US Open virus success points way for Tokyo Games: wheelchair tennis champ

Tokyo (AFP) –


The successful staging of the US Open Grand Slam proves that next year's Olympics and Paralympics can be held safely despite the coronavirus pandemic, wheelchair tennis champion Shingo Kunieda said on Friday.

The 24-time Grand Slam singles champion, widely considered the best player wheelchair tennis has seen, said the US Open's ability to stave off the virus was a hopeful sign for next year's postponed Games.

Although France's Benoit Paire tested positive after entering the Grand Slam's bio-secure 'bubble', there were no clusters of cases and the tournament went off smoothly behind closed doors in New York.

"The US Open... ended safely without making a cluster happen. I think this showed a step toward" holding the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo, Kunieda told reporters via videolink.

The world number one and three-time Paralympics gold medallist, who captured his seventh US Open men's singles title on Sunday, held an online meeting with Tokyo 2020 organisers to discuss anti-virus measures.

The 2020 Games were postponed in a historic decision earlier this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, with a potentially scaled-down version set to be held from July 23, 2021.

Top officials have spoken openly about the possibility of cancelling the Games altogether, as the pandemic continues to rage. But Kunieda said he took heart from his experiences in New York.

"If measures are taken firmly, international competitions can be held safely. I think the US Open is a good example," which Tokyo organisers should learn, he told an online news conference.

"If measures are taken firmly, athletes can take part in competitions comfortably. This is very important," Kunieda added.

Kunieda briefed Tokyo 2020 organisers about the US Open's frequent virus tests and strict isolation measures at hotels and the venue.

He urged the Tokyo officials to adopt stringent measures against the virus, which he described as "the most important key" to the Games' success.

Earlier this month, Japanese officials and Tokyo 2020 organisers began talks on the mammoth task of how to hold the Olympics safely while the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage.