The Indian Wells BNP Paribas Open was sensationally cancelled on Sunday after local health officials confirmed a case of coronavirus in the region.
“As a result, the 2020 BNP Paribas Open will not take place at this time due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus and the safety of the participants and attendees at the event,” organisers said in a statement.
“This is following the guidance of medical professionals, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and State of California.”
“We are very disappointed that the tournament will not take place, but the health and safety of the local community, fans, players, volunteers, sponsors, employees, vendors, and everyone involved with the event is of paramount importance,” TD Tommy Haas said.
“We are prepared to hold the tournament on another date and will explore options.”
Organisers said they are preparing a refund system for fans in the form of either money back or a credit for the 2021 edition of the desert classic.
The main draw play was to have begun on Wednesday. Many players arrived early to practice and get a feel for the courts and the hot, dry desert air.
Plans for hundred of players, coaches, families and support personnel – not to mention hundreds of thousands of fans – were instantly thrown into total dis-array
Men’s defending champion Dominic Thiem has been onsite for nearly a week preparing his defence; Rafael Nadal is also onsite.
The fate of the Miami Masters due to start in just over a fortnight now has to be called into question.
USC professor of medicine and bio-engineering Dr. David Agus was quoted by the LA Times, defending the decision. “There is too great a risk, at this time, to the public health of the Riverside County area in holding a large gathering of this size,” Professor Agus said.
“It is not in the public interest of fans, players and neighbouring areas for this tournament to proceed. We all have to join together to protect the community from the coronavirus outbreak.”
The tournament is considered an unofficial fifth “major” tournament, it annually draws the top male and female players. This year’s prize money was to exceed $17 million.
“While we regret that the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells will not take place, the ATP Tour calendar beyond Indian Wells remains as status quo,” the Gaudenzi statement read.
“We continue to monitor the situation daily, working closely with our player and tournament members with the understanding that direction must be taken from local public health authorities
Speculation is increasing that the message might indicate that Miami matches might be played behind closed doors, a strategy which incurs almost all of the organising costs with none of the returns.