The 2020 tennis circuit is barely off to a start, but like so many other pro sports leagues right now, it’s already hitting a major roadblock in the coronavirus pandemic.
With several leagues already canceling or postponing games and tournaments, professional tennis has sent some mixed messages concerning its response to the outbreak. If Indian Wells is any indication, however, the ATP and WTA tours face its own hiatus.
Looking forward to Indian Wells
The BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells is one of the biggest non-majors of the tennis season. However, when the coronavirus hit the Coachella Valley, there were not a lot of reasons to go forth and play. After all, with a virus like COVID-19, any large gathering could affect players, personnel, media, and fans in attendance.
In a statement posted to the tournament’s website on March 8, the tournament was officially canceled due to the risk that holding such a crowded event could have on public safety. Especially with an international sport like tennis, an outbreak at a tournament could spread across the world before anyone knew what hit them.
How did the tennis world respond to the cancellation?
Players obviously wanted to play the tournament, but they largely understood exactly why the ATP and WTA had to take drastic measures. Several took to Twitter and other platforms to both speak about the tournament and let fans know how they were doing.
Sloane Stephens was sad that she didn’t get to play, tweeting, “So sad about this (crying emoji) but as they said priority has to be everyone’s health and safety!! Praying this gets better.”
Men’s tennis superstar Rafael Nadal was similarly tactful when discussing the illness, acknowledging that the immediate concern makes the future of tennis shady.
“You probably all heard the news. Indian Wells canceled. We are here and still deciding what’s next,” Nadal tweeted. “So sad for all that is happening around the world with this situation. Hopefully soon solutions from the authorities. Stay all well and safe.”
Serena Williams didn’t speak much on the tournament, but she updated fans about her immediate plans with regards to preventing the outbreak from reaching those dearest to her.
“Spending the next 6 weeks in solitude,” Williams announced on her Instagram. “Being a wife. Being a mom. Cooking. Cleaning. Spring cleaning. Face mask. Makeup tutorials. I’ll let you know how it goes … stay safe everyone. This is serious.”
What’s next for professional tennis?
Those in charge of the tournaments initially planned to go forward with its season by playing the 2020 Miami Open with strict guidelines in place. After the announcement, however, even the players were getting antsy about the prospect of playing tennis despite everything going on. Novak Djokovic was among the first to voice his doubts about the tournament.
“[The Word Health Organization’s] official confirmation that it is a worldwide pandemic means a major shutdown of transport, events, perhaps even exchanges,” Djokovic said per Essentially Sports. “This state of emergency for the whole world. I do not see how the Miami tournament will be held under these conditions. My advice to all guys in the U.S. is to return to Europe in the next 48 hours, maybe earlier.”
Djokovic’s concerns did not fall on deaf ears. As the virus spread not only throughout the country but the world, it became increasingly clear that something had to be done. Miami Open organizers decided in conjunction with the local government that this year’s tournament should be canceled.
All ATP And WTA events are currently canceled for six weeks. Rumors say that current tennis standings will be frozen as the ATP and WTA decide how to move forward with the season. Hopefully, for tennis fans and the rest of the world, conditions will improve across the world.