Britain’s Andy Lapthorne has called for a solution to be found after the US Open decided not to hold wheelchair events in 2024 because of a scheduling clash with the Paralympics.
Next year’s US Open is scheduled from 26 August to 8 September, with the Paralympics in Paris taking place during the same fortnight.
It is the fourth time the wheelchair events will not take place at the New York Grand Slam for this reason.
However, Lapthorne – a two-time quad singles champion at Flushing Meadows – says cancellation is not the answer.
“It’s disappointing and from a player point of view, I’m trying to speak up for the playing group because there’s a lot of players from countries who literally rely on the four Grand Slams for their income, to pay their bills and to continue to play on the tour,” Lapthorne told BBC Sport.
“To lose one of the biggest events of the year, especially at the end of the year, is going to be really tough for a lot of the playing group. You’re literally asking them to go from Wimbledon in July to the end of the Australian Open, which will be the start of February, with no real pay.
“It’s a tough situation but I hope we can find a solution on this occasion.”
The total prize money pot for the wheelchair events in 2023 was $1.4m (£1.2m), compared to $44.7m (£36.8m) for the men’s and women’s singles. The Paralympics offers no prize money.
A US Open spokesperson told BBC Sport it had looked at holding the wheelchair events at the same time as the US Open’s qualifying tournament, which takes place the week before the championships begin, but had ruled rescheduling would not be “logistically possible” because of a lack of “court inventory”.
Lapthorne, also a four-time quad doubles US Open champion, said: “I don’t see why some of the courts couldn’t be used for the event instead of having the able-bodied athletes using them as practice courts. I think we would probably only need three or four courts for four days to get the event played.
“It’s not ideal but playing it on another date so that the players get the ranking points, they get to be champion for that year but, more importantly for the players who are struggling financially, they get paid.
“I feel there’s a solution to get the event played, it might not be perfect for everyone but I feel like conversations need to happen. I feel the ITF (International Tennis Federation) and USTA (United States Tennis Association) are far too quick to just settle on cancelling the event.”
Wheelchair events did not take place at the US Open in 2008, 2012 and 2016 because of a scheduling clash with the Paralympics, though they did run in 2021 as that year’s Games – postponed in 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic – finished before the start of the Grand Slam.
Lapthorne, 32, criticised the US Open’s decision to omit wheelchair competitions from the 2020 Covid-19-affected tournament as “discrimination” and a “kick in the teeth”. The US Open later backtracked on its decision, and Lapthorne went on to win the doubles title at that year’s tournament.
A US Open spokesperson said: “Earlier this year, the USTA investigated the potential of moving the 2024 US Open wheelchair championships to US Open fan week since the Paralympic Games will take place during the event’s normally scheduled timeframe.
“We worked with the ITF throughout this process. Unfortunately, such a rescheduling is not logistically possible. Due to the number of players on-site for the US Open qualifying tournament and those practising in advance of the start of the main draw, there would not be enough court inventory to hold the event on-site.
“This is compounded by the increase in draw sizes for the men’s, women’s, and quad divisions over the past two years. It should be noted that the US Open junior wheelchair championships will take place in 2024.”