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London | Tennis on hold until at least 8 June

Demonstrating solidarity in the face of the FFT’s rogue action to postpone the French Open until September, the ITF, ATP and WTA have acted in joint collaboration to announce that professional tennis is now on hold until at least 7 June.

I haven't spoken to Guy Forget but I'm happy to play the tournament whenever it is scheduled. I hope I get the chance to defend my title in September - any opportunity to compete is something I'll grab with both hands. There are more important things going on in the world right now, though, and I will do whatever helps keeps us all safe and healthy. Ash Barty

Both World No 1s Rafael Nadal and Ash Barty are said to defend the move in principle as the FFT came under fire for a lack of communication after making the unexpected announcement.

FFT President Bernard Giudicelli claims Roland Garros Tournament Director Guy Forget was in touch with 12-time champion Nadal before they made their announcement.

“We had Rafa on the phone [and] we tried to reach other players,” he is quoted as saying by RMC Sport.

“It was Guy who got Rafa. His feeling was that it was a good decision that keeps the clay season on the calendar.”

Unlike the men’s reigning champion, Barty revealed that she did not receive such a courtesy call but amid unprecedented uncertainty and talk of players boycotting the clay court Grand Slam, she remains typically upbeat and pragmatic.

“No I haven’t spoken to Guy Forget but I’m happy to play the tournament whenever it is scheduled,” Barty said.

“I hope I get the chance to defend my title in September – any opportunity to compete is something I’ll grab with both hands,” the amiable Aussie told AAP.

“There are more important things going on in the world right now, though, and I will do whatever helps keeps us all safe and healthy.”

Barty is keeping fit and healthy, as well as her eye in, during the lay-off from competitive tennis by playing plenty of golf.

On Tuesday a statement was released confirming that the French Open has been delayed due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and will be staged from 20 September – 4 October, which is just seven days after the conclusion of the US Open.

“Though nobody is able to predict what the situation will be on 18th May, the current confinement measures have made it impossible for us to continue with our preparations and, as a result, we are unable to hold the tournament on the dates originally planned,” the FFT said in a statement.


Rafa Nadal picked up the trophy for the twelfth time in 2019

© Clive Mason/Getty Images

That the FFT acted alone is evident from subsequent statements released by all interested parties.

“At a time when the world is coming together, we recognise that such a decision should not be made unilaterally,” the USTA, organisers of the US Open responded.

“Therefore the USTA would only [act] in full consultation with the other Grand Slam tournaments, the WTA and ATP, the ITF and our partners, including the Laver Cup.”

The latest statement issued jointly by the ATP and WTA also ends with a clear message: “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.”

Notably absent from that list was the FFT.

The rankings now are to be frozen, meaning that players will no longer have to worry about being unable to defend points they earned on the tour last year.

The ATP/WTA statement reads: “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 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.

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

“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 maximising 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.”

With 200,000 cases of the Coronavirus reported worldwide, the tennis world has already been hit hard, halted since the start of this month due to the outbreak with the clay court season now cancelled.

It is the longest suspension to have ever struck the sport and there is now also ongoing concern about the upcoming grass-court season, which takes place in June.

The next scheduled Grand Slam is Wimbledon, which is set to get underway on 29 June 29.

“While we continue to plan for The Championships at this time, it remains a continuously evolving situation and we will act responsibly, in the best interests of wider society,” AELTC Chief Executive Richard Lewis said this week.

The ITF has also suspended their tournaments until 8 June in line with the other two bodies in a decision that relates to all ITF junior, beach, wheelchair and senior tournaments as well as the Davis and Fed Cups, which have already been suspended.

“In these challenging times, it is more important than ever for our sport to pull together to provide as much certainty as possible to all those affected by these postponements,” ITF President David Haggerty said.

“We recognise the huge impact this will have, but ultimately the health and safety of players, officials and spectators has to be our primary concern.

“The ITF is committed to taking a responsible approach, working with all tennis stakeholders to enable players of all levels to resume playing as soon as it is safe to do so.”





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