The 2020 Wimbledon Championships have been cancelled due to "public health concerns" pertaining to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, organisers confirmed on Wednesday.
This year's tournament was scheduled for June 29 to July 12 and would have been the 134th edition of the prestigious grass court Grand Slam. However, the announcement means it is the first time Wimbledon has been called off since the Second World War.
"It is with great regret that the Main Board of the All England Club (AELTC) and the Committee of Management of The Championships have decided that The Championships 2020 will be cancelled due to public health concerns linked to the coronavirus epidemic. The 134th Championships will instead be staged from 28 June to 11 July 2021," Wimbledon said in a statement released on the tournament website.
"Uppermost in our mind has been the health and safety of all of those who come together to make Wimbledon happen – the public in the UK and visitors from around the world, our players, guests, members, staff, volunteers, partners, contractors, and local residents – as well as our broader responsibility to society’s efforts to tackle this global challenge to our way of life."
Wimbledon is the latest major summer sports event to be cancelled or postponed, following the postponement of the Tokyo Olympic Games and football's European Championships and Copa America.
The French Open, originally slated to take place at the end of May and start of June, has been able to postpone its 2020 tournament and found space in the tennis calendar from September 20 to October 4.
However, Wimbledon, with its grass courts, needs to be played during the summer months, so it did not have the same flexibility to discuss new dates.
“This is a decision that we have not taken lightly, and we have done so with the highest regard for public health and the wellbeing of all those who come together to make Wimbledon happen," Ian Hewitt, AELTC Chairman, said.
"It has weighed heavily on our minds that the staging of The Championships has only been interrupted previously by World Wars but, following thorough and extensive consideration of all scenarios, we believe that it is a measure of this global crisis that it is ultimately the right decision to cancel this year’s Championships, and instead concentrate on how we can use the breadth of Wimbledon’s resources to help those in our local communities and beyond.
"Our thoughts are with all those who have been and continue to be affected by these unprecedented times.”
While Wimbledon organisers still, theoretically, had some time before making a final decision, on-site preparations would need to begin at the end of April, but with the current restrictions in place in the UK, that posed major problems.
Additionally, given the current climate in the UK regarding the coronavirus, hopes that large gatherings could attend the All England Club by the end of June - in 2019, more than 500,000 people attended the Championships - seem ambitious.
Players have reacted to the news of Wimbledon's cancellation, including women's champion Simona Halep, who wrote on Twitter: "So sad to hear Wimbledon won’t take place this year. Last year’s final will forever be one of the happiest days of my life! But we are going through something bigger than tennis and Wimbledon will be back!"
Roger Federer, Wimbledon's greatest male champion with eight titles, simply wrote "devastated" on his Twitter account in response to the announcement.
Coco Gauff, the American teenager who created the storyline of the 2019 championships when she reached the fourth round at the age of 15, wrote: "I’m gonna miss playing in Wimbledon this year. Stay safe everyone."
Like most major sport around the world, tennis has been severely disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. There have not been any tournaments played since Indian Wells was cancelled days before the tournament at the start of March.
Tennis players have been doing their bit to help in the fight against the pandemic. Men's world No 1 Novak Djokovic donated €1 million (Dh4m) to his native Serbia for medical supplies and devices, while Federer made a donation of one million Swiss francs (Dh3.8m) to aid in the relief effort in his country.
Rafael Nadal, meanwhile, has been leading campaign and fundraising efforts in Spain with a goal of raising €11m from Spanish athletes.