Wimbledon tennis championships, due to begin on June 29, have been canceled by organizers because of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. The move marks the first cancellation of the event since World War II.
In a statement, the Main Board of the All England Club (AELTC) and the Committee of Management of The Championships said the decision took into account the significant preparations required to stage The Championships, either on the original date of June 29 or at a later date in the summer of 2020. The decision also reflected ongoing concerns over mass gatherings, the strain on the medical and emergency services, as well as movement and travel restrictions both within the UK and around the world.
The statement said, “With the likelihood that the Government’s measures will continue for many months, it is our view that we must act responsibly to protect the large numbers of people required to prepare The Championships from being at risk – from the training of ball boys and girls to thousands of officials, line judges, stewards, players, suppliers, media and contractors who convene on the AELTC Grounds – and equally to consider that the people, supplies and services legally required to stage The Championships would not be available at any point this summer, thus ruling out postponement.”
Ian Hewitt, AELTC Chairman, commented: “This is a decision that we have not taken lightly, and we have done so with the highest regard for public health and the wellbeing of all those who come together to make Wimbledon happen. It has weighed heavily on our minds that the staging of The Championships has only been interrupted previously by World Wars but, following thorough and extensive consideration of all scenarios, we believe that it is a measure of this global crisis that it is ultimately the right decision to cancel this year’s Championships, and instead concentrate on how we can use the breadth of Wimbledon’s resources to help those in our local communities and beyond. Our thoughts are with all those who have been and continue to be affected by these unprecedented times.”
Richard Lewis CBE, AELTC chief executive, commented: “While in some ways this has been a challenging decision, we strongly believe it is not only in the best interests of society at this time, but also provides certainty to our colleagues in international tennis given the impact on the grass-court events in the UK and in Europe and the broader tennis calendar. We have appreciated the support of the LTA, and the ATP, WTA and ITF in coming to this decision, and our friends and partners who stage these grass-court events that are so important in the build-up to Wimbledon. I would like to thank the UK Government and public health authorities for their guidance and support, and we will do whatever we can to assist their efforts in tackling the crisis.
“Finally, I would like to thank all those who love Wimbledon for their understanding of these unique and unquestionably challenging circumstances. It is your passion for The Championships that has shaped our event over the years and will continue to do so, and we look forward to preparing a fantastic Championships for 2021.”
In a statement, the USTA said it understands the “unique circumstances” facing the AELTC and the reasoning behind the decision to cancel the 2020 Wimbledon Championships but still plans to hold the U.S. Open in New York as scheduled at this time. The tournament is set to start on August 24.
USTA said, “The USTA is carefully monitoring the rapidly-changing environment surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, and is preparing for all contingencies. We also rely on the USTA’s Medical Advisory Group as well as governmental and security officials to ensure that we have the broadest understanding of this fluid situation. In all instances, all decisions made by the USTA regarding the US Open will be made with the health and well-being of our players, fans, and all others involved in the tournament.”
On March 18, the French Open was postponed until September.
Photo courtesy Wimbledon