How the coronavirus pandemic is affecting tennis
Like every sport, tennis has been seriously affected by the coronavirus crisis, with a number of big tournaments either postponed or cancelled and uncertainty over what comes next.
Here, the PA news agency answers the key questions surrounding tennis and the shutdown.
What’s definitely been cancelled?
There will be no professional tennis played before July 31 on the main tours following announcements by the ATP and WTA. That removes a host of events from the calendar, with Wimbledon the biggest confirmed casualty. The 2020 tournament at the All England Club is the first to be pulled since war time and takes with it the whole grass court season. The Miami Open and Madrid Open, which are both joint ATP and WTA events, had earlier come to the same conclusion, while there was no men’s Masters tournament and the Rogers Cup in Canada has also been cancelled, despite being scheduled for after the resumption date.
Which events have been postponed and until when?
French Open organisers unexpectedly announced in March that they were moving the tournament from May/June to September, a week after the scheduled end of the US Open. The decision was taken unilaterally, causing much disquiet in the sport, though it remains in the calendar. Organisers of the big joint events in Indian Wells and Rome have both said they hope to rearrange while the intention is for the Fed Cup finals still to be held.
Are any major events likely to remain on in 2020?
As well as the revised Roland Garros, the US Open will go ahead at Flushing Meadows between August 31 and September 13, with organisers saying it will be played behind closed doors. The next battle will be to get the top starts to the tournament as Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are two who have expressed doubts about competing. The tours will need to decide whether to hold the ATP and WTA Finals if only a few tournaments are played. This year marks the end of the ATP Finals’ stay at London’s O2 Arena. The Davis Cup Finals is the last major event scheduled this season from November 23-29.
Will there be any tennis at all before July?
While the main two tours are suspended until August 1 there are pop-up tournaments being played around the world as professional players begin to compete again. There are seven events scheduled in Britain over June and July, with Andy Murray, Kyle Edmund and Dan Evans set to play in at least one of them. All tournaments are being played behind closed doors and with strict social distancing and safety measures in place.
How are players managing financially?
While the sport’s biggest stars are unlikely to be badly damaged, many professionals live from paycheck to paycheck and the domino effect of tournaments disappearing has seen those dry up. Earlier in May, a £4.81million Player Relief Programme was set up, to assist around 800 players deemed vulnerable. The money comes from a coalition of the ATP, WTA, ITF and the four grand slam tournaments.
Where does the sport go from here?
Tennis is in a better position than many other sports given its schedule. Events that cannot be held this year will simply begin planning for 2021. The rankings have been frozen and will not begin updating until the season resumes. However, the nature of the sport – with large amounts of people moving from one city to another each week and doubts about travel restrictions – must mean that the professional game will be one of the last to restart.