ATP and WTA cancel entire European clay-court season and all tennis until June

hannahwilks in News 18 Mar 2020

There will be no professional tennis played until 8 June 2020 due to the global coronavirus pandemic, it was confirmed today.

The ATP and WTA issued a joint statement on Wednesday announcing that all scheduled tournaments in the European clay-court swing will not be held.

The statement, which was issued at the same time on both the ATP Tour website and the WTA Tour website and by the social media accounts of both tours, began:

‘After careful consideration, and due to the continuing outbreak of COVID-19, all ATP and WTA tournaments in the Spring clay court swing will not be held as scheduled. This includes the combined ATP/WTA tournaments in Madrid and Rome, along with the WTA events in Strasbourg and Rabat and ATP events in Munich, Estoril, Geneva and Lyon.’

The statement follows yesterday’s shock announcement by the French Open, aka Roland Garros, that the 2020 edition of the tournament had been rescheduled from its original 24 May-7 June dates to 20 September-4 October.

The ATP/WTA statement does not mention the French Open, which is not an ATP Tour or WTA Tour event, specifically, but confirms the cancellation of all tournaments until the start of the grass-court season on 8 June 2020.

‘The professional tennis season is now suspended through June 7, 2020, including the ATP Challenger Tour and ITF World Tennis Tour. At this time, tournaments taking place from June 8, 2020 onwards are still planning to go ahead as per the published schedule.’

The tournaments planned for the week of 8 June 2020 are a joint ATP and WTA Tour event in ‘s-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands, the ATP Tour 250-level Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart and the WTA International-level Nottingham Open.

The statement also confirmed that rankings on both tours will be frozen, with no players losing points until competition resumes.

‘In parallel, the FedEx ATP Rankings and WTA Rankings will be frozen throughout this period and until further notice.’

This means that Novak Djokovic, who currently holds the world no. 1 ranking, will surpass Pete Sampras’s total weeks spent as world no. 1 on 20 April and be second only to Roger Federer on the all-time list, while Rafael Nadal will break Jimmy Connors’s record for consecutive weeks spent in the top 10 in May.

The global COVID-19 pandemic has currently caused over 8,000 deaths worldwide, with over 212,800 confirmed cases. Europe is currently particularly hard hit by the virus, with Italy recording the highest COVID-19 death toll (475) in a single day anywhere since the outbreak began.

Tennis has been effectively on hold since the cancellation of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells on 9 March. The ATP Tour and ITF Tour shortly afterwards announced a suspension. The WTA Tour was reluctant to issue a blanket suspension, updating on the status of individual tournaments, but there has been no professional tennis at any level for a week.

The joint statement read:

‘The challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic to professional tennis demand greater collaboration than ever from everyone in the tennis community, in order for the sport to move forward collectively in the best interest of players, tournaments and fans.

‘We are assessing all options related to preserving and maximizing the tennis calendar based on various return dates for the Tours, which remains an unknown at this time. We are committed to working through these matters with our player and tournament members, and the other governing bodies, in the weeks and months ahead.’

While the statement did not explicitly mention the decision by French Open tournament organizers to reschedule the tournament for September, just one week after the US Open and clashing with several other ATP and WTA events, it was a clear rebuke to the approach taken by the FFT.

It was a decision that Bernard Giudicelli, president of the French Tennis Federation (FFT) who run the French Open, described as ‘difficult yet brave’, but which was met with widespread consternation by players and other tennis governing bodies.

The ATP and WTA reacted implicitly by releasing a joint statement, presenting a powerful united front, and explicitly by emphasizing the need for cooperation and communication among the game’s powerful authorities, ending:

‘Now is not a time to act unilaterally, but in unison. All decisions related to the impact of the coronavirus require appropriate consultation and review with the stakeholders in the game, a view that is shared by ATP, WTA, ITF, AELTC, Tennis Australia, and USTA.’

Noticeably missing from that list, which includes the ATP, WTA, ITF and the governing bodies of the other three Grand Slams? The FFT.