Tennis could lose the remainder of the 2020 season to the coronavirus pandemic, Tennis Australia (TA) chief executive Craig Tiley has said. The tennis season screeched to a halt in early March due to the respiratory illness, which has infected almost 800,000 in the world while killing over 38,500 since emerging in China late last year.
The men’s ATP Tour and the WTA, which runs the women’s circuit, have suspended all tournaments until June 7 after countries started locking down borders to contain the spread of the coronavirus. “My personal view is I think for tennis to come back this year is going to be tough,” Tiley told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
“It relies on global travel, and I think that’s probably the last thing that’s going to come back. I think sports that have a domestic focus are in a strong position and sports that have a global focus are more challenged.”
The Australian Open, which started in January, has so far been the only Grand Slam that was not impacted in 2020 with the French Open organisers moving the claycourt major back to September from its May start.
Wimbledon organisers will announce the cancellation of the grasscourt Grand Slam this week, according to German Tennis Federation vice-president Dirk Hordorff. Tiley said TA was planning to run next year’s Australian Open on schedule. “We’ve got to plan for the worst and hope for the best,” he said.
“Tomorrow morning we wake up and there is some miracle cure or some concoction of drugs that really helps, or they’re on a path to a vaccine. (But) from all the literature you read, it doesn’t seem likely in the immediate future. (When) you can travel globally is when tennis can come back, from a pro level. From a local level, we can start right away and that’s what we would be focused on at the beginning.”
The French Tennis Federation came under heavy criticism from tennis players around the world at the lack of communication as the new dates clashed with several other events already featuring on the calendar. The new French Open dates mean the claycourt major will start at Roland Garros a week after the conclusion of the US Open on the hard courts of Flushing Meadows in New York. It also clashes with the September 25-27 Laver Cup, a team event co-created by Roger Federer and sanctioned by the ATP. TA is a stakeholder of the Laver Cup along with US Open organisers United States Tennis Association. Tiley said “deep conversations” were underway to resolve the scheduling dispute.
WTA working on better pay, considers extending Tour
With lower-level players reeling financially from the tennis shutdown over the coronavirus, the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) said yesterday it was working to boost players’ earnings when the sport resumes and may extend the 2020 season.
The season screeched to a halt in early March due to the virus, leaving players in the lowest tiers without any opportunity to earn their livelihoods.
“The WTA is diligently working with our tournaments to maximize earning possibilities when the professional tennis circuit is able to resume and is considering an extension to the current 44-week season to enable more tournaments to take place,” the association said in a statement answering questions from Reuters.
“It is our sincere hope to return to the court as soon as possible - when the health and safety or our players, fans and staff can be guaranteed, we will be back competing.”
The men’s ATP Tour and the WTA, which runs the women’s circuit, suspended all tournaments until June 7 after countries started locking down borders to contain the coronavirus. The International Tennis Federation (ITF), the sport’s governing body, also postponed its lower-tier World Tennis Tour until June 8.
The November 1-8 WTA Finals is the season-ending tournament on the women’s Tour calendar before the season heads into a break of eight to 10 weeks. In recent weeks professional players, who solely depend on match earnings, have spoken about their financial concerns.
“We wish there was a way everyone, especially those in need the most, could be compensated at the level they were expecting, but the needs are so great and the WTA unfortunately is not in a financial position to do that,” the WTA said.
“Professional tennis players are independent contractors and not employees of the WTA. As a result, a player’s compensation is based on on-court competition and when tournaments are not held this puts a pause on their principal revenue flow.
“The WTA fully recognises the challenges these athletes are facing as well as those similar challenges being dealt with from millions of people around the world during this unprecedented situation.”
The ATP Finals, scheduled to start on Nov. 15 in London, is the final event on the men’s Tour before the ITF’s flagship team-event Davis Cup in Spain. The men’s Tour is also working behind the scenes and looking at ways to support the players.
“The current situation raises many questions which we empathize with greatly, and we are working hard on evaluating all options,” ATP Chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said.
“Our ability to address any supportive measures will be best guided once we know the duration of the crisis and when the Tour will resume, which remains unknown at this time.”
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