WTA Stuttgart tournament latest to be cancelled due to COVID-19

hannahwilks in News 16 Mar 2020
The Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart during the 2019 final (Photo: Marijan Murat/dpa)

The Porsche Tennis Grand Prix has become the latest big tennis tournament to be called off in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Premier-level event is one of the most popular and prestigious stops on the WTA Tour’s European clay-court schedule.

The 2020 Porsche Tennis Grand Prix was due to begin on 20 April. Five of the world’s top seven players were scheduled to appear: Simona Halep, Elina Svitolina, Belinda Bencic, defending champion Petra Kvitova and 2018 winner Karolina Pliskova. Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin and three-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber were also in the field.

Curiously, the tournament was not called off by the WTA Tour and at the time of writing the tour has not released an official announcement about the cancellation.

The news was broken by the German media, with local authorities quoted as saying the tournament taking place was ‘off the table’.

According to BILD.de, the WTA would have preferred the tournament to be played behind closed doors.

At the time of writing, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany is climbing towards 4,000. Eight people have died.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned at a press conference last week that up to 70% of the country’s population, which is about 58 million people, could contract the virus.

While the ATP Tour announced a six-week suspension of all tournaments, lasting until 27 April, and the ITF similarly called off all events for five weeks across all their tours, the WTA Tour has been noticeably reluctant to issue a similar blanket ban.

Petra Kvitova won the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in 2019 (Photo: Marijan Murat/dpa)

After the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells was cancelled, followed by the Miami Open, the WTA announced that tournaments due to take place in the week commencing 6 April in Charleston and Bogota had been cancelled.

The ITF had already called off the inaugural Fed Cup Finals, which were supposed to be played in Budapest, Hungary, from 14-19 April, and the play-off ties which were due to take place around the world the same week.

Now with the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix confirmed to be cancelled, the only remaining WTA Tour event on the calendar before 27 April is the Istanbul Open, which begins 20 April.

Concern is rising about the major events of the clay-court season. With the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters and the Barcelona Open among tournaments already cancelled, the European clay season has already been decimated. There are back-to-back major events in the first two weeks of May – the Mutua Madrid Open beginning 2 May, and the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome beginning 11 May – which are among the largest tournaments of the season, and the second Grand Slam of the year, the French Open, begins in Paris on 24 May.

The French government has banned all gatherings of over 1,000 people until further notice.

Wimbledon has been clear that they will cancel the event rather than play it behind closed doors, but French Open organizers are not ruling out the possibility of playing the tournament without spectators.

Tournament director Guy Forget said:

‘That also poses problems. If it is going to be viable there has to be time, but at the same time it’s going to arrive rapidly… The unknown is the amount of time it is going to be going on.

‘I think, as a priority, of the health of the spectators and players. We will explore all the possibilities but anyway, it is not going to be up to the French federation. We will follow the recommendations [of the government].’

WTA CEO Steve Simon told the New York Times that it was ‘going to be very tight’.

‘I would be hopeful that in that time… things would have gotten back to whatever the new norm is and the French Open would be able to happen. But I think it is going to be very tight and I know they have to be very nervous.’