Rome Masters bosses may not want to publicly admit it, but the clay event due to begin in little more than a week next weekend will have to go fan-free.
In tradition of the “ghost” tournament format being pioneered in the virus-plagued US, the Italian outing will be players-only (and some staff) around the grounds of the riverside Foro Italico complex in the capital.
Italian media report the August 31 diktat from regional health bosses laid down the law, with zero spectators to be allowed through the gates.
That brings up the unspoken problem haunting the tournament: where are ticket refunds for fans?
The federation is conveniently missing any information about that issue on its website, with radio silence the rule of the day.
Ticket sales for the upcoming edition are said to have totalled around EUR 7 million, more than half of the EUR 13 million the event made in 2019 with men and women competing during the same week.
National health officials had tossed the final decision to the locals while recommending the fan-free format for 2020 as COVID-19 case start to rise again in Italy, landing strip for the virus in Europe at the start of the year.
La Gazzetta dello Sport reported that had cases been trending downwards, a possible loosening on protocols could have been considered- but the door was shut on that one when positive cases surpassed 150 per day in the Lazio region this week.
Tennis officials had been hoping to bring 6,400 fans onto the grounds during the week-long event, with that number somehow divided equally between four separate courts.
But the system was ruled a non-starter due to the ease of any fan moving anywhere around the park-like grounds.
The Federation (FIT) is not due to meet until September 12 – next Saturday – but huddles are invariably going on behind the scenes on the sticky ticket refund wicket..