The 2021 Auckland Classic has been scrapped because of difficulties hosting the events during the coronavirus pandemic organisers confirmed on Tuesday, becoming the first victim of next season’s schedule.
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. Karl Budge, ASB Classic Tournament Director
The New Zealand hardcourt tournament is held in early January and is a warm-up event for the Australian Open, attracting top names in recent years, including this year’s women’s champion Serena Williams and Ugo Humbert, who won the men’s title..
Tournament director Karl Budge said the Covid-19 crisis had created an uncertain environment that made it unfeasible to stage such a complex event.
“We are obviously incredibly sad to share this news but safety has to be our priority,” he said in a statement.
Budge said organisers are committed to ensuring the tournament goes ahead in 2022.
The tournament, which holds separate event for men and women in different weeks, is first victim of the 2021 season.
“Yea obviously an incredibly sad day for us,” Budge told New Zealand media. “We thought we had a plan that was robust, but unfortunately there is just not a pathway to a decision that we could have in the timeframes we needed, and unfortunately that’s led to the pretty tough environment that we’re in today.”
Budge added that there are a ‘myriad of factors’ that contributed to the decision, while Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley has said players entering his country will need to quarantine for 14 days within a ‘bubble’ on arrival, which would cause problems for those travelling between New Zealand and Australia.
New Zealand has effectively eradicated COVID-19 but maintains strict border controls and travel restrictions to minimise the risk of further outbreaks.
The ASB Classic is a 250 event on the ATP Tour and a Premier on the WTA Tour.
A political fallout has erupted over the announcement with some accusing the government of not doing enough to support the event.
Emma Mellow, who is a National Party candidate for Auckland Central, told The New Zealand Herald that the event contributes $20 million to the local economy and that officials were too slow in providing support to Budge and his team.
“Ten days ago I raised the alarm that government ministers were dropping the ball on the ASB Classic, and their failure to engage constructively with organisers was putting the tournament at grave risk,” she said. “The organisers were left waiting three months for a response from the Government about whether or not they could work on a safe solution.”
Despite the setback, Budge has vowed that the tournament will return stronger in the future.
“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.” He concluded.
The ASB Classic was named ‘Best International Event’ in five out of the past seven years on the WTA Tour.