The 2020 BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California has been cancelled due to safety concerns surrounding the coronavirus.
— BNP Paribas Open (@BNPPARIBASOPEN) March 9, 2020
Tournament officials made the announcement on Sunday evening local time in Southern California, just one day before qualifying was scheduled to begin. County officials have declared a public health emergency in the Coachella Valley following a confirmed case of the virus.
“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,” said Dr. David Agus in a statement released by tournament organisers. “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.”
It’s one of the biggest and most high-profile sporting events to be abandoned since the outbreak of the coronavirus, which continues to wreak havoc globally.
The BNP Paribas Open is often referred in tennis circles as the ‘fifth slam’. It’s classified as a Masters 1000 event for the ATP and a Premier Mandatory tournament for the WTA.
A combined Challenger and ITF event – the Oracle Challenger Series – was completed on Sunday in Indian Wells at the same venue where the BNP Paribas Open is staged.
Many players had already arrived in Indian Wells and were training at the facilities in anticipation of beginning their campaigns later this week.
Former player Tommy Haas, who now serves as the BNP Paribas Open tournament director, was open to playing the tournament at a later date – but with the tennis calendar already stacked, it seems highly unlikely that would be possible.
“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,” he said.
“We are prepared to hold the tournament on another date and will explore options.”
Attention will now turn to the Miami Open – another Masters 1000 and Premier Mandatory tournament – that is scheduled to start on March 23.
Popular electronic musical festival Ultra, which is held annually in Miami, has already been cancelled amid fears of the coronavirus.
Players are already speculating what will happen to the tour in the near future on social media.
Doesn’t bode well for the tour if IW cancelled for 1 confirmed case in Coachella Valley. Broward county (Miami Open home) has more confirmed cases. Monte Carlo borders northern Italy currently in lockdown. Rome Masters? French Open? Wimbledon?!!!
— Jamie Murray (@jamie_murray) March 9, 2020
At the time of writing, there have been over 109,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide and 3,800 deaths.
The tennis tour is scheduled to head over to Europe for the clay season in April, with one of the swing’s biggest events – the Internazionali BNL d’Italia (or Rome Masters) – taking place in Italy, the epicentre of the virus in Europe.
Italian government authorities say the country now has 7,375 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with 366 deaths. Italy has overtaken South Korea as the country with the second-most cases, behind China.
France has reported 1,126 cases as of Sunday, with 19 deaths. The French Open, the second Grand Slam of the year, is scheduled to take place in Paris on May 24.
Fans that purchased tickets to Indian Wells can request a refund for the 2020 tournament or obtain credits for the 2021 edition.