WASHINGTON, October 8, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)
With much uncertainty amid the COVID-19 pandemic, next January’s ASB Classic in Auckland – New Zealand’s highest-profile international sporting event – has been cancelled. The announcement was made this week by tournament director Karl Budge and it affects both the WTA and ATP events that were scheduled for back-to-back weeks at the start of the 2021 calendar year prior to the Australian Open in Melbourne.
The men’s tournament has been held continuously since its inception in 1956 while the women’s event began in 1985. This year’s titlists were Ugo Humbert and Serena Williams.
“We thought we had a plan that was robust, but unfortunately there’s just not a pathway to a decision that we could have in the time frames we needed and unfortunately that’s led to the pretty tough environment that we’re in today,” Budge said, quoted by New Zealand media sources.
Although New Zealand currently has no local COVID-19 cases, there are tight restrictions in effect pertaining to entry into New Zealand. There would have been a 14-day quarantine period required for those coming into the country, which the tournament had requested a reduction to just three days with monitoring.
“It’s an incredibly complex situation,” Budge said. “There’s no sort of one-off area that we met or didn’t meet. There’s a myriad of factors that we needed to work through. Unfortunately, there just wasn’t the pathway to get to a point that any of us could have confidence that we could deliver what you need to deliver a tournament of our standing in a time frame that would enable us to do it.”
Instead, according to Budge, the ASB Classic will concentrate on returning in 2022.
“We’ve been here for 60 years and no virus is going to stop the ASB Classic [from] becoming the annual showpiece that it’s become and what we’ve known for a number of years,” he said.
“We’ve got to make sure that we come back stronger.
“We’ve had incredible support from our sponsors [and] the team that we’ve got here that work tirelessly on trying to make a summer of tennis happen and I think we owe it to them to do everything that we possibly can to ensure that we return in 2022 and we return with a real statement.”