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CORONAVIRUS ROUNDUP

USTA cancels events in Rhode Island, but keeps US Open on schedule

Amelie Mauresmo, Marat Safin, and Justine Henin posed in 2016 at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I., where the National Grass Court Championships won't be played this year.
Amelie Mauresmo, Marat Safin, and Justine Henin posed in 2016 at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I., where the National Grass Court Championships won't be played this year.REUTERS

The United States Tennis Association is still planning to hold the US Open in New York starting Aug. 31 despite Tuesday canceling a handful of amateur national championship events earlier in the month, including two that were to be contested in Rhode Island.

The National Grass Court Championships, scheduled for Aug. 10-16 at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, and the Men’s 75 & 80 and Mother/Son USTA National Grass Court Championships at Agawam Hunt Country Club in Rumford, were called off.

“Without a controlled environment that includes a comprehensive and contained lodging, transportation, food and beverage, and medical testing program in place, proper risk mitigation would not be possible,” the USTA said in a statement, “and in the case of these events, this type of environment would logistically and financially be incredibly difficult to create.”

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That controlled environment, including universal housing, is lined up for Flushing Meadows and the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center for what is usually the year’s fourth and final Grand Slam event. On June 16, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo approved the USTA’s plan to host both the US Open and Western & Southern Open.

“We recognize the tremendous responsibility of hosting one of the first global sporting events in these challenging times, and we will do so in the safest manner possible,” USTA Chief Executive Officer Mike Dowse said.

All sanctioned tennis has been suspended since March because of the pandemic. Competition is scheduled to resume in August, though the Swiss Indoors scheduled for Oct. 26-Nov. 1 in Roger Federer’s hometown of Basel was canceled Tuesday, with organizers declaring it would be “irresponsible and logistically difficult to go ahead” with the event this year.

The Thoreau Tennis Open, a debuting women’s event scheduled for Aug. 17-23 at The Thoreau Club in Concord, was among a group of five US events canceled last week.

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Nearly a dozen umpires opt out of 2020 MLB season

About 10 Major League Baseball umpires have opted out this season, two people familiar with the situation told The Associated Press.

There are 76 full-time MLB umpires and more than 20 of them are age 55 or over. Joe West and Gerry Davis are the oldest umps at 67; West plans to work his 42nd season despite the pandemic.

Umpires such as West who are deemed at risk — either for their age, health situation or other issues — and opt out will continue to get paid. Umps get their salaries over 12 months and have already been paid through April. A deal between MLB and its umpires reached during the virus shutdown ensured that if even one regular-season game was played this season, the umps were guaranteed 37.5 percent of their salaries.

Minus 10 or more MLB umpires, many Triple-A umps will work the two-month season. Most of them have previously called games in the majors as fill-in for umpires who have been injured or are on vacation.

Dodgers pitcher David Price, Giants catcher Buster Posey, and Washington infielder Ryan Zimmerman are among a dozen or so players who won’t participate this year because of health issues.

Official encourages Blue Jays to shuffle schedule

The Toronto Blue Jays might want to consider hosting an extended stretch of home games in order to get approval to play at home, according to Canada’s Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo.

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Back-and-forth travel from the United States, where coronavirus cases are surging, is a major issue that could prevent the government from approving Major League Baseball to play in Canada.

“The fact of the matter is today in Canada we’ve done a good job of flattening our curve. The situation doesn’t appear to be changing quickly in the US,” said Njoo, who noted Canada has been reporting about 300 cases per day compared to 60,000 in the US.

The Blue Jays are scheduled to open the season July 24 at Tampa Bay. Toronto’s home opener is listed as July 29 against Washington.

“We’re seeing what’s in the realm of possible,” Njoo said. “I could get myself in trouble but I’m going to say it anyway. Look at the epidemiology of COVID-19 in Canada. I know the schedule has already been set for the Blue Jays, but in trying to respect the quarantine and keeping players safe, I don’t know.”

The US-Canada border remains closed to nonessential travel and the two countries are poised to extend their agreement to Aug. 21, but a final confirmation has not been given, a person familiar with the matter said. The Blue Jays have said they prefer to play in Toronto. Their training facility in Dunedin, Fla., has been mentioned as an alternative, but Florida is seeing a record surge in COVID-19 cases.

SEC pushes some fall sports back to Sept. 1, holds off on football

The Southeastern Conference is postponing the start of volleyball, soccer, and cross country competition through at least the end of August, saying that provides more time to prepare for a safe return to competition on an adjusted timeline. The decision includes all exhibition and non-conference games.

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The league hasn’t made any announcement on the football season. The Big Ten and Pac-12 have opted to only play conference games, with the ACC expected to follow.

Also, Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin said during a Zoom call with reporters that he tested positive for the coronavirus last month. He said he had about 48 hours where he felt really crummy and probably another three or four days where he didn’t feel like doing much before going back to normal, and emphasized the importance of “wearing the masks and physical distancing.”

Saratoga locks down jockeys for summer meet

Jockeys riding at Saratoga Race Course in upstate New York won’t be allowed to return to the track if they compete elsewhere during the upcoming summer meet, which opens Thursday and runs through Labor Day.

The new rule is aimed at limiting the potential spread of the novel coronavirus. In the last week, at least six jockeys have tested positive, including five who rode at Los Alamitos in Southern California earlier this month. Many of those riders then competed at other tracks around the country before learning that they had been exposed to the virus.