What at first seemed to be a local problem in China has now developed into a full-blown epidemic. Over 100,000 people in the world are now confirmed to be infected with the Covid-19 virus. Cases of such social importance also leave their footnote on the tennis circuit.
A total of nine events of the ATP Challenger Tour have been canceled or postponed until late summer/autumn. Most of them were to be played in Asia, but one of the events was supposed to start in Madrid on the 23rd of March (postponed until October at the moment). As Italy had to lockdown two regions, the final of the Bergamo Challenger was not played, leaving both Ilya Marchenko and Enzo Couacaud with the prize money and the ranking points of the runner-up.
Over the past weekend, many Davis Cup ties were played without an audience. Included were ties in Europe like Italy vs South Korea (Cagliari) or Poland taking on Hong Kong (Kalisz).
For the BNP Paribas Masters in Indian Wells, at first a number of new rules were introduced. First of all, ballkids were to no longer deal with the players’ towels. Most of the workers at the tournament (including the ballkids) would wear gloves. Among many others, players would also be instructed not to distribute their used equipment to the fans and wouldn’t be allowed to accept pens, tennis balls, and any other items used for autograph-signing. These safety measures will be implemented in every upcoming event of the ATP and WTA Tours in the spring (if any of them are played).
But all of it won’t happen, at least not in Indian Wells. As the Riverside County Public Health Department declared a public health emergency, the 2020 BNP Paribas Open will not be held.
— BNP Paribas Open (@BNPPARIBASOPEN) March 9, 2020
With the number of coronavirus-related deaths in Italy increasing rapidly, the Rome Masters is in huge jeopardy. So is every European circuit event. And once again as it seemed that only Asia and Europe will have such issues, it turns out the problem is much more global than we might have thought.
While all of that might scream panic, the safety of the players and the crowds should be the top priority. With no known vaccine or treatment yet, it’s important for people to maintain a stable immune system and avoid crowds and international travel.
At this rate, the 2020 French Open might also be in danger of cancelation. The Paris Marathon has been postponed and it’s an event that only takes about six hours. A Grand Slam needs two weeks and if the situation doesn’t improve, it’s hard to imagine Paris hosting it in the regular calendar spot this year. With the epicenter of the outbreak being Asia, even the Tokyo Olympics, the most-anticipated competition in global sports, has to be put under a huge question mark.