Tennis

Wimbledon scrapped for the first time since World War II

Grass-court Grand Slam scrapped for the first time since World War II

The Wimbledon tennis championships were yesterday cancelled for the first time since World War II, as the coronavirus pandemic wiped another blue-riband sports event off the calendar yesterday.

While the decision had looked inevitable for some time, since the virtual shutdown of world sport and the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics, Wimbledon had been one of the few events not to have been officially cancelled or postponed.

But after emergency talks between the various stakeholders over the last few days, the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) announced that it was impossible for the grass-court Grand Slam, scheduled for June 29-July 12, to take place.

"It is with great regret that the main board of the All England Club and the committee of management of the championships have today decided that The Championships 2020 will be cancelled due to public health concerns linked to the coronavirus epidemic," the AELTC said in a statement.

"The 134th Championships will instead be staged from June 28 to July 11, 2021."

The news was greeted with dismay by tennis stars such as Roger Federer, who is hoping to extend his record tally of 20 Grand Slam titles.

The Swiss legend, who turns 39 in August, tweeted: "Devastasted", along with an image that says "There is no gif for these things that I am feeling".

Serena Williams, who turns 39 one month after Federer, is one short of Margaret Court's all-time record of 24 Grand Slam titles for women. She tweeted: "I'm Shooked."

Earlier, John Isner, who won the longest tennis match over three days at Wimbledon in 2010, said it will be a "tough pill to swallow" if the event is cancelled.

The men's ATP Tour and women's WTA Tour are already suspended until at least June 7, but it looks extremely unlikely that any professional tennis will be possible throughout the summer as the pandemic worsens in Europe and the United States.

Britain's death toll from the virus reached 2,352 yesterday, according to NHS figures.

The French Open, originally due from May 24-June 7 has been postponed and controversially rescheduled by the French tennis federation for Sept 20-Oct 4, shortly after the US Open.

DOUBTS

Former Wimbledon champion Amelie Mauresmo doubts whether either tournament will be played, though.

"I think we're going to have to draw a line under the 2020 tennis season," Mauresmo said on Twitter this week.

"International circuit = players of all nationalities plus management, spectators and people from the 4 corners of the world who bring these events to life. No vaccine = no tennis."

Unlike the French Open which is played on clay, Wimbledon's scope for rearranging the start date was extremely limited.

While Centre Court and Court One boast a roof, playing elite tennis outside on grass would have been extremely challenging in late summer or autumn with a lack of light and problems caused by dew forming on the surface late in the day.

Shortening the format of the tournament, or playing behind closed doors, would also have proved extremely unpopular with the players. - REUTERS, AFP

Tennis