Indian Wells, one of the most prestigious events on the ATP and WTA tennis calendar, has been cancelled due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus, organisers have announced.
The tournament, which is a Masters 1000 for the men and a Premier Mandatory for the women, was scheduled to start on Monday with the qualifying rounds. But a statement released on the tournament website on Sunday night confirmed that the decision has been made to cancel the event after a confirmed case of Covid-19 in the local area.
"The Riverside County Public Health Department has declared a public health emergency for the Coachella Valley after a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19) locally. As a result, the 2020 BNP Paribas Open will not take place at this time due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus and the safety of the participants and attendees at the event. This is following the guidance of medical professionals, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and State of California," the statement read.
“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. “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.”
Indian Wells organisers have offered fans who have bought tickets for this week's tournament the opportunity to claim refunds or credits for the 2021 edition.
Steve Simon, WTA Chairman and CEO, has said the decision to cancel Indian Wells was taken with public health and safety a top priority as efforts continue in the United States and around the world to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
"First and foremost, there isn’t anything more important than protecting the health of our players, staff, volunteers and fans who attend our events," he said in a statement. "The WTA empathizes with those affected by the coronavirus in this region and around the world.
"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 too soon to speculate about what will happen to other tournaments that follow.
"We will continue to closely monitor the situation. Health and safety will always come first."
Indian Wells tournament director Tommy Haas echoed Simon's sentiments in a statement issued on the ATP website.
“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,” Hass, a former world No 2, said. “We are prepared to hold the tournament on another date and will explore options.”
On Monday, global coronavirus cases passed 109,000, with at least 3,800 deaths being reported so far, although that number is rising by the hour.
Sporting fixtures across the world played out to empty arenas
How the Miami Open, which is scheduled to begin on March 23 and holds the same status as Indian Wells, is affected by this cancellation remains to be seen. The most recent announcement, on Saturday, suggested that the tournament would still go ahead, although that is likely to be open to review if coronavirus cases in the local area increase.
Indian Wells' cancellation comes a day after the ATP and WTA released a joint-statement detailing precautionary measures to combat the spread of Covid-19. These included gloves for ball kids, no hand-holding between mascots and players, no autograph signings, and players handling their own towels.