While Wimbledon officials remain hopeful The Championships could still go ahead, the odds are narrowing on the grass court Grand Slam being forced to cancel as measures to stem the coronavirus become more stringent.
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. ATP/WTA Statement
It has been reported that organisers have put on hold the training for its ball boys and ball girls as they continue to monitor the worsening outbreak.
With the pro tours on hold until at least 8 June, the clay court season has been shelved and rankings frozen until play can be resumed.
If there is no improvement in the situation, it is inevitable that Wimbledon will be the latest sporting event to be cancelled.
The All England Club has already closed its museum, shop, and Community Sports Ground and now it seems preparations for ball kids have been halted since the government insist on avoiding non-essential social gatherings.
Nevertheless, Wimbledon is still preparing to host the tournament from 29 June to 12 July, but there is a ‘growing realisation’ that the virus may prevent it from happening.
Despite Wimbledon’s fears, World No 3 Dominic Thiem has revealed he is starting on his training for the grass court season.
“I learned yesterday evening that the entire clay-court season has now been cancelled and that our ATP tour will not continue until June 8th, ie in just under 3 months,” said Thiem.
“Clearly there are much more important things in our lives now and we all have to do our part.
“Nevertheless, these are very drastic and dramatic measures for all players, but we must learn to deal with them.
“It is a fate that we tennis professionals of course share with the whole sports world.
“It is not fun for anyone, especially if you do not know how it will go on. We now have a target date, and I will start preparing for grass soon.
“Like everyone else in our country, I’m only at home and try to keep myself a bit fit. When and how it starts again is still written in the stars.
“But the most important thing is: Stay healthy, everybody.”
Meanwhile the spat over the French Open broadens after the FFT’s surprise announcement that it plans to postponed the clay court Grand Slam until September, stomping on over 10 ATP and WTA events plus the Laver Cup in the process.
Bernard Giudicelli, President of the FFT, who is from Corsica like Napoleon, must have foreseen the backlash such a decision would make, and the same goes for Tournament Director Guy Forget.
They decided to reserve the first available dates at all costs, and put themselves on a massive collision course, hoping, no doubt, that many players would opt to play in Paris. particularly those not invited to Boston’s Laver Cup.
The guarantee of at least £35,000 in prize money for first-round losers is a good carrot.
The provocative move, however, and the arrogant way in which it was delivered, put the cat amongst the pigeons as it effectively rips up the season’s schedule.
The ATP, WTA ITF, Wimbledon, Australia and the US Open have already distanced themselves from the FFT and Roland Garros and have pledged to work through this unprecedented situation together.
“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,” the recent ATP/WTA joint statement read.
“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.
“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.”
Note the absence of the FFT from that list and whether there will be some sort of retaliation down the line remains to be seen.
This could take the form of a full French Open boycott come September, withholding precious ranking points, or cancelling the Paris Masters.
The French Open’s unilateral move came at a time when the coronavirus pandemic should encourage more solidarity.
It has to be said that apparently Forget got the approval of the king of clay, Rafael Nadal, for the move; and that World No 1 Ash Barty is prepared to defend her title whenever Roland Garros is held.
The waves being created by this particular rock will crash across the shore of tennis that is currently on hold.
For how long, nobody knows, and it could all come to nought if the pandemic stretches deep into the year, forcing many more cancellations.