A confirmed COVID-19 case in the Coachella Valley in California has forced the Indian Wells organizers to cancel the USD 17mn worth tourney as they fear the potential outbreak could cause even bigger damage to both the tournament and the sport. IW cancellation, considered 5th slam outside the tennis 4 regular slams, is the first of its kind the history of the sport since World War II
After a case of coronavirus was confirmed in the desert east of Los Angles, the BNP Paribas Open administration announced their decision through a statement to the sadness of Tennis fans.
“There is too great a risk, at this time, to the public health of the Riverside County area in holding a large gathering of this size,” said Dr. David Agus, Professor of Medicine and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Southern California, on Sunday.
“It is not in the public interest of fans, players and neighboring areas for this tournament to proceed. We all have to join together to protect the community from the coronavirus outbreak.”
The decision was made after the organizers consulted with the Centres of Disease Control (CDS in State of California. The hard-court tournament is one of the most significant Masters 1000 event outside the tennis’ four prestigious grand slams event that are played in different parts of the year.
Touted as the “5th grand slam” the tournament played 130 miles to the east of Los Angeles attracts some of the largest crowds during the North American tennis swing. Ensuring equality in terms of its prize money, Indian Wells offers USD 17mn every year.
Many of the top-seeds of Tennis including 19-time Grand Slam winner and World #2 Rafael Nadal had already arrived to participate in the hard-court event where qualifiers were scheduled on Monday with main draw matches starting from Wednesday before the cancellation was announced.
“We are very disappointed that the tournament will not take place, but the health and safety of the local community, fans, players, volunteers, sponsors, employees, vendors, and everyone involved with the event is of paramount importance,” said tournament director Tommy Hass. “We are prepared to hold it on another date and will explore options.”
Any ticket holder can claim his money or credit it for the next year’s edition. Steve Simon, Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) chairman and CEO asserted that the focus is firmly on “protecting the health of our players, staff, fans and volunteers who attend our events.”
“The WTA empathizes with those affected by the coronavirus in this region and around the world, he said in a statement.
“We are disappointed our fans will not be able to come out and watch the event, and our players are also disappointed to not compete over the next two weeks, along with the sponsors who support the event. However, we understand the decision which has been made in the interest of public health and safety which is the top priority at this time.
“It is soon to speculate about what will happen to other tournament that follow. We will continue to closely monitor the situation. Health and Safety will always come first.”
Rafael Nadal, 33 is one of the many who reacted to Sunday’s sad news:
“You probably all heard the news. Indian Wells cancelled. We are here and still deciding what’s next. So sad for all that is happening around the world with this situation. Hopefully soon solutions from the authorities. Stay all well and safe,” wrote Nadal in his tweet.
The novel Coronavirus if not curtailed can affect Miami, Monte Carlo, Rome, French Open and Wimbledon and other tournaments in the European clay and grass swing.