WASHINGTON, March 18, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)
When French Open officials announced that the year’s second Grand Slam would be postponed until September due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, it continued what has been an unprecedented period in professional tennis history.
Since the beginning of last week, back-to-back ATP Masters 1000 and WTA Premier Mandatory tournaments taking up the entire March tour-level tennis calendar – the BNP Paribas Open and the Miami Open – have been cancelled, and just today, the ATP Tour and WTA have suspended play through June 7, including the ATP Challenger Tour and ITF World Tennis Tour. Originally, the ATP Tour suspended tournaments for six weeks and the WTA halted play until the start of May. Also, the ITF previously postponed the Fed Cup Finals and Fed Cup Playoffs originally scheduled for next month.
Effectively, with Wednesday evening’s joint statement by the ATP and WTA, the entire European clay-court season is off the spring schedule. Also, the FedEx ATP Rankings and WTA Rankings “will be frozen throughout this period and until further notice,” the ATP and WTA said.
“The irony is that the unilateral actions of the French tennis federation has led to the other governing bodies in tennis working more closely together than before,” Stuart Fraser, tennis correspondent for The Times of London, wrote on Twitter. “And looking far better for it.”
Joint Announcement: ATP & @WTA extend suspension of tours.
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.
— ATP Tour (@atptour) March 18, 2020
Both Wimbledon and the US Open remain optimistic that they will be played as scheduled, but only time will tell. On Tuesday night, though, the Laver Cup issued a statement reaffirming it plans to maintain its original dates, September 25-27. What this means is the prestigious ATP exhibition, named after Hall of Fame great Rod Laver and a joint initiative between TEAM8, Tennis Australia, the USTA and Jorge Paulo Lemann, will go head-to-head with the new French Open dates (September 20 to October 4). It will be held at TD Garden and tickets are already sold out. The Laver Cup is supported by Founding Partner Rolex and Global Sponsors Credit Suisse and Mercedes-Benz. Last year’s participants included: Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Nick Kyrgios and Denis Shapovalov.
The Laver Cup statement said:
“The tennis world learned today that the French Tennis Federation intends to schedule Roland Garros from Sept. 20 – Oct. 4, 2020 due to the impact of COVID-19. These dates overlap with the dates of Laver Cup 2020, already sold out, and scheduled for September 25-27, 2020 at TD Garden in Boston.
“This announcement came as a surprise to us and our partners – Tennis Australia, the USTA and the ATP. It raises many questions and we are assessing the situation. At this time, we want our fans, sponsors, broadcasters, staff, volunteers, players and the great city of Boston to know that we intend to hold Laver Cup 2020 as currently scheduled.”
Laver Cup statement on schedule. pic.twitter.com/wMWUVOnhtz
— Laver Cup (@LaverCup) March 18, 2020
An open letter from Rafael Nadal
On Tuesday, Rafael Nadal wrote an open letter to his fans, which was posted on rafanadalacademy.com and Twitter. He began: “As you know, the circumstances at the Academy are very particular as throughout the year young players of 42 different nationalities reside here. For various family and logistical reasons, many of them have stayed here and it is our duty and responsibility to look after them and that is what I have told their parents. … I would like to take this opportunity to put the parents’ minds at rest and to tell you all that your children are being very well looked after by a great team that is giving their all every single minute to take care of their health. I know you want to be with your children and we hope that moment will arrive soon. I would also like to encourage you to stay home. These are difficult times but together we will come through them.”
Hola a todos. Estoy bien, en casa, haciendo ejercicio físico y siguiendo las órdenes y recomendaciones de las autoridades.
Espero que todos estéis bien y en casa. #yomequedoencasa#iorestoacasa #andràtuttobene#jerestechezmoi#IStayAtHome https://t.co/HuhgKk2iDl
— Rafa Nadal (@RafaelNadal) March 17, 2020
What they’re saying
• Forty-sixth-ranked Caroline Garcia of France, interviewed by French sports daily L’Equipe: “There’s a whole organization before these tournaments that people can’t really imagine. And it’s impossible today to prepare a tournament of this level, of this quality.”
• Vasek Pospisil of Canada, a member of the ATP Player Council wrote on Twitter: “This is such a difficult time. Everyone is being impacted by this catastrophe. Enhancing communication and working together to find solutions should be the priority. Not going rogue and making selfish/arrogant decisions to further impact the tour in a negative way.”
• World No. 2 Simona Halep, has filmed a video in her native Romanian language pledging her support to her fellow countrypersons: “We are so grateful for the bravery of our medical workers at these difficult times. I am committed to helping my country and have decided to donate medical equipment.”
We are so grateful for the bravery of our medical workers at these difficult times. I am committed to helping my country and have decided to donate medical equipment.
Please see my Facebook page for more info: https://t.co/D0Ko1lrtUp
Stay safe and look after each other 💪🇷🇴❤ pic.twitter.com/z8kbYWPUWO
— Simona Halep (@Simona_Halep) March 17, 2020
What they’re writing
• David Loriot and Franck Ramella, L’Equipe sports writers: (Translated from French to English) “To everyone’s surprise, the French Tennis Federation announced Tuesday the postponement of the Roland-Garros tournament, initially scheduled from May 24 to June 7, in the fall (September 20-October 4), in the wake of the US Open. A real bomb in a sport without governance where all actors play their survival in the middle of a coronavirus pandemic.”
• Simon Briggs, Daily Telegraph tennis correspondent, on Wimbledon: “The chances of the 2020 Wimbledon Championships proceeding as normal seem increasingly remote, after the French Open was postponed on Tuesday until late September because of the coronavirus pandemic. But do not expect a ruling imminently. Sources at the All England Club indicated on Tuesday that they hope to keep their options open for at least another month.”
• Christopher Clarey, New York Times tennis correspondent, on the French Open: “Initially, there was discussion about shifting the French Open to late July or early August, if the Tokyo Olympics were postponed. Then on Tuesday, the International Olympic Committee reiterated its support for staging the Games as scheduled, from July 24 to Aug. 9, with the Olympic tennis competition to run from July 25 to Aug. 2. That left the French Open with few options for rescheduling and with concerns that some other delayed even might try to move into the late September slot. (FFT President Bernard) Giudicelli and his team chose to impose their will, announcing their decision publicly during a private conference call with ATP and WTA leadership without asking for a green light from the tours or the other three Grand Slam events. It remains unclear whether all leading players will support the move.”
What they’re tweeting
Diego Schwartzman of Argentina, ranked No. 13: “Once again, we found out on Twitter.”
— diego schwartzman (@dieschwartzman) March 17, 2020
Katie Boulter, Great Britain, ranked No. 370
For anyone looking for a dog sitter/walker in the Fulham/Chelsea area, for the next 6 weeks. Hit me up 😂
— Katie Boulter (@KatieBoulter1) March 16, 2020
John Isner, United States, ranked No. 21
Asking this not because I’m tone deaf but more because I think a healthy debate could be fun.
So tennis fans, Should the ATP/WTA ‘freeze’ ranking points during this hiatus or let all the points fall off?
— John Isner (@JohnIsner) March 16, 2020
Marin Cilic, Croatia, ranked No. 37
How many?! 🤯👏
— ATP Tour (@atptour) March 16, 2020
One year ago
Dominic Thiem beats Roger Federer to win the 2019 BNP Paribas Open, his first Masters 1000 title.
— ATP Tour (@atptour) March 17, 2020