INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – It appears the ATP and WTA Tour are making every effort they can to replace the playing opportunities lost because of the cancellation of the Indian Wells tournament.
Next week’s ATP Tour Challenger in Phoenix, Ariz. will have an expanded draw.
So will the WTA 125K tournament in Guadalajara, Mexico.
The WTA event had been a 32-player draw with an eight-player qualifying draw and a 16-team doubles draw.
The main draw will now be expanded to 56 (a 64-player draw with byes for the top eight seeds).
The doubles draw remains the same. But at least 24 more singles players will be in.
Players have until Wednesday at 5 p.m. EDT to submit a late entry.
In Phoenix, there will be 12 extra spots as the Challenger’s main draw goes from 48 to 56, and the qualifying singles draw from four to eight players.
Debrecen debacle a helpful lesson
The WTA had a dress rehearsal for the adding of players late when it tried to merge playing opportunities from the cancelled tournament in Debrecen, Hungary into Dubai.
They will be at it again in Guadalajara, under rather different circumstances.
The extra 24 spots will be a mix of those who were on the qualifying list, and the new entries, with the hierarchy decided by the players’ rankings on Feb. 24, 2020 (the original deadline for the main draw).
The tournament is limiting the players outside the top 10 but inside the top 50 who are allowed to enter, to six. There are also four wild cards that those players could use (well, three, as the tournament has already offered one to Genie Bouchard, if she’s ready to return to play).
To say the extra players will put a strain on the facilities is not to understate the case. But it’s a commendable effort by the Tours to try to help out some of the lesser-ranked players.
In Phoenix, where they didn’t add as many spots, the temporary stands will eliminate at least one court. There are only nine in all, even without a lost court.
The players could always warm up on the pickleball courts.
Early start in Guadalajara
The main draw in Guadalajara will start on Sunday instead of Monday. The qualifying, which has only eight players and is only one round, will be played on Saturday.
Magda Linette is the highest-ranked player (at No. 33 at the ranking deadline) to add her name to the expanded entry. So far, only she and Jasmine Paolini (No. 94) are top-100 players among the additions.
Canadian Leylah Annie Fernandez, whose wild card into the main draw at Indian Wells was one of the casualties of the cancellation, had entered Guadalajara. But she found herself way down the list for both the main draw and qualifying because the entry deadline came when her ranking was still down at No. 190.
The additional 24 spots mean Fernandez has moved closer to getting in. But she won’t even get into the eight-player qualifying unless several more players pull out. And with nearly 24 hours to go for other players ranked higher to get in on the action, it’s hard to say what her odds are.
If our information is accurate, players can also sign in for the eight-player qualifying on Friday, March 13 (yes, Friday the 13th) between 1-4 p.m.
Phoenix location not a safe bet
As all this is happening, there seems to be very little conversation about whether or not the Phoenix Challenger is in danger of being cancelled because of the COVID-19 virus.
It’s odd, of course. But it probably doesn’t surprise most players who compete at the Challenger level and know that they don’t get treated with the same utmost care.
The Maricopa County, Arizona government website (Phoenix is in Maricopa County) confirms “community spread of COVID-19.”
There are six confirmed cases in all of Arizona. Of course – scarily – there have only been … 84 tests conducted in all of Arizona, per the state’s department of health.
The Democratic debate between candidates Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, scheduled to be held in Phoenix on Sunday, has announced extraordinary measures that will have it held, basically, for television only. No crowd, no press room, no spin room. Nothing.
Noah Rubin, who is not playing in Phoenix and is headed to Hawaii per his Twitter (at No. 247 at the entry deadline, he’d have been about 25 spots out anyway), summed it up.
That said, the field for the Phoenix event has some really good names.
For some, it was a “safety” tournament. Had they made a run at Indian Wells, many would have pulled out. But under the current circumstances, you’d expect them all do go.
Among them: Richard Gasquet, Gilles Simon, John Millman, Miomir Kecmanovic, Jannik Sinner, Jérémy Chardy and others.
There are five wild cards to award as well.
Guadalajara with Premier Mandatory-sized draw
The Abierto Zapopan 2020 is only in its second edition. So the event must be scrambling to handle all this last-minute change with not much institutional experience with what the site can handle.
Mexico requires visas for people some countries, including what’s called a “sports working visa”. And it can be a time-consuming process.
There are only seven confirmed cases of people hit by the COVID-19 virus so far in all of Mexico. But at the same time, there reportedly are only three medical centres in the entire country where they can even test for it.
The other challenge will be that no one knows what’s going to happen in two weeks. If Miami ends up being a go, will people have trouble getting back into the U.S. from Mexico? No one knows.
Those last three words pretty much sum everything up.
(Guadalajara stadium photo from the tournament Facebook pages).