***UPDATE: Everything tennis is cancelled***
INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – The news that the Fed Cup finals in Budapest have been called off for now – more than a month before the scheduled dates – may just be the first in a long line of high-profile tournaments that won’t go off as planned because of concerns surrounding the COVID-19 virus.
You know the meetings are fast and furious in the executive suites of the ATP and WTA Tour, the International Tennis Federation and even the International Olympic Committee.
The Tokyo Olympics looming in just over four months’ time.
But for the moment, there’s a lot of buzz about the tournaments at the ITF level being cancelled indefinitely.
There’s also some buzz about the Tours themselves shutting down entirely for a few months – something that even a week or two ago was unimaginable.
We’re hearing the Grade 1 junior event in Carson, Calif. (in the Los Angeles area) the week of March 23 if off. As is the Easter Bowl, a big junior event that was to be held on site at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden the week of March 30.
Last week, the ATP announced the cancellation of a number of Challenger-level tournaments.
More cancellations are expected this week, including tournaments in Tunis, Tunisia and in Portugal.
A long list of ITF tournaments already have been cancelled or postponed.
Spanish federation sets down restrictions
On Tuesday, the Spanish tennis federation told its tournaments – from amateur right up to the top pro level – that all must be played behind closed doors – i.e., no fans – because of the virus concerns.
The Spanish minister of culture and sports has urged all sports federations to do this, so they’re not alone.
It also recommended that at junior tournaments, the number of support (parents and coaches) be limited, and that they do not sit in close proximity to each other in the stands or on site.
The French federation seems to be right behind them. Already, it has postponed the Open international des Brisants – a major beach tennis event – to October. It had been scheduled for next week.
French, German players told to leave Kazakhstan
In an extraordinary development at the Nur-Sultan Challenger in
Kazakhstan, French and German players were told to leave the country today, or face quarantine.
Most of the French and German players active this week on the other side of the pond are at the Challenger in South Africa (some seven or eight of them).
Still, Mats Moraing had to give his opponent a walkover. The concept seems to be that players who have recently been in Italy, Japan, Taiwan, Germany, France and Spain need to … go.
Among those who have withdrawn are Purav Raja of India, France’s Enzo Couacaud, and others – the official reason listed is “non-medical”. Two Chinese players withdrew after the draw was made.
Monte Carlo offers refunds, if …
The first Masters 1000 of the clay-court season in Monte Carlo –actually, technically, located in France and perilously close to the Italian border – has made an announcement.
It hasn’t cancelled the tournament. But if it is played behind closed doors, with no fans allowed, it will put a procedure in place to reimburse ticket holders.
Israel, Slovakia, Italy, Antalya shut down
The core issue is that all the tournaments are interconnected in the same universe. If you have some players being able to get to some tournaments, and some can’t, you have a disconnect. If you have events cancelled in some areas and not in others, but the players are unable to make last minute changes to try to play at another tournament, it’s eminently unfair to all.
So, in truth, either they all need to be played. Or none of them should be played.
All of the $15K Futures events in Antalya, Turkey have been cancelled at least through May. Those cancellations are not yet reflected on the external website. But they have been announced on the internal iPin site players are signed onto.
We’re told that the same is happening in Tunisia.
Resort sites like Antalya, one of the locations in the world along with Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, Monastir, Tunisia, Heraklion, Greece and Santa Margarita di Pula, Italy hold Futures events virtually every week.
While the conditions of the players can be brutal – the resorts often hold them somewhat hostage in terms of making it difficult for them to book cheaper accommodations nearby and not pay inflated prices on site – they are the lifeline for the aspiring professionals trying to move up the rankings.
The tournaments are also a lifeline for the resorts themselves, who can guarantee a lot of room bookings on a weekly basis. So the symbiosis is legitimate.
This week, a $15,000 tournament in Tokyo was called off. Next week, another in Kofu, Japan. A $15K in Herzlia, Israel is cancelled (and every other ITF event in Israel the next few months), Another entry-level event in Trnava, Slovakia is off next week.
Higher up on the food chain, a $60,000 women’s tournament in Shenzhen is (obviously) not on this week. A similar tournament in Wuhan next month also was cancelled.
A $100,000 clay-court event in Trnava in mid-May, one played by many of the players who will then head to the French Open qualifying, is already called off.
Even a $15,000 women’s event in Fountain Valley, Calif. scheduled for the end of April, has been postponed to an as-yet undetermined date. (Although we don’t know if it’s because of the virus concerns).
Even the seniors affected
There is a seniors’ tournament in Menton, France this week. And it’s a big one – a Grade A event.
It began on schedule earlier in the week. But on Wednesday morning, a decree handed down by the French Tennis Federation all but shut it down. Players in categories that have already begun, we’re told, will finish up by Thursday.
But for those whose tournament had not yet begun – and many had travelled a long way to play it – it’s been cancelled. Their entry fees are being refunded, and they’re going home.
Menton is just up the coast from Monte Carlo. More pertinently, it’s only about two miles from the Italian border. Many Italian players who had planned to play the event couldn’t even get out of their own country for the quick drive there to play it.
Seniors tournaments in Spain and Italy have already been cancelled.
Waiting on Miami
It’s hard to fathom that the Miami Open will go on as scheduled, despite the tournament serving notice just yesterday that it intended to go on.
IMG, which owns the event, is looking at a major investment of time and money that could be flushed into the Atlantic. And you know they will wait until they have absolutely no choice.
They should probably shut down their scheduled Tweets, though. Because it’s like rubbing peoples’ noses in it given the uncertainty.
The ITF also is planning to hold the 40th World Seniors Championship in the Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. area next month. The country vs. country event is the last week of April, and the individual tournament the first week of May.
But from what we’re told, two of the planned venues have already indicated they’re not prepared to host an event that gathers together hundreds of players from around the world in the 50+, 55+ and 60+ categories.
So you’d have to think that event is on shaky ground. It’s not easy to find replacement venues that are willing to host on such short notice.
The $15,000 men’s ITF in Sunrise, Fla. – in the Fort Lauderdale area – scheduled for the week of April 13 has been cancelled.
Slowly but surely, the tennis universe is grinding to a complete halt. How long that may last, we just don’t know.
Meanwhile, the Phoenix Challenger announced that Frances Tiafoe is joining the field. And the ATP’s Challenger Twitter was promoting it.
So it’s all over the place at the moment.