The Miami Open has become the latest sporting event cancelled due to the growing outbreak of the coronavirus, declared a pandemic Wednesday by the World Health Organisation, with the ATP Tour suspending play for the next six weeks. This move, which follows the earlier abandoning of the Indian Wells Masters, had been anticipated for some days, but will no doubt be a bitter blow for the ATP and WTA Tours. The Sunshine Double is one of the most important parts of the calendar, with the tournaments in California and Miami attracting the best the sport has to offer and providing fans with a focus during the long gap between the Australian Open and Roland Garros.
The tournament was canceled by the Mayor of Miami-Dade County, not by the tours, though it seems very likely that the tours would have had to themselves anyway.
— Jamie Lisanti (@jdlisanti) March 12, 2020
And with the coronavirus having hit Europe particularly hard, with Italy the epicentre of the outbreak, the ATP Tour have taken the decision to suspend play for at least the next six weeks. That move will see the Monte Carlo Masters, the Madrid Open and likely the Italian Open, three of the ATP Tour’s premier Masters 1000 events and vital warm-up tournaments for the French Open either cancelled or postponed.
It is still unclear how the tennis authorities intend to deal with what now seems destined to become an extremely truncated season. Currently, no word has been given on the likelihood of play in Monte Carlo, Madrid, Rome and Paris, but difficult decisions will likely need to be made in the coming weeks.
Not least in terms of ranking points and the financial affairs of both tournaments and players. Whilst the largest tournaments and biggest stars of the game should be well-placed to withstand a potential suspension of professional tennis, for smaller tournaments and players further down the rankings, this could potentially spell disaster. As the situation becomes more clear in the coming weeks, strong leadership will thus be needed from those at the top of the game.
However, there can be no question that cancelling the Miami Open and potentially other tournaments is the right move. It is apparent that the virus is made much more difficult to contain by large gatherings of people and moves to limit fan attendance or cancel events have been taken across the world, both in terms of sporting events and other cultural engagements. For example, Italy’s Serie A has been postponed until at least April whilst the SXSW festival in Austin has been cancelled.
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