The Show Must Go On: Tennis Officials And Tournaments Defiant In Wake Of Coronavirus Crises - UBITENNIS
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The Show Must Go On: Tennis Officials And Tournaments Defiant In Wake Of Coronavirus Crises

After the suspension of Indian Wells, officials are trying to relieve fears for other tournaments in the near future.

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Grand slams, Masters 1000 events and governing bodies from the world of tennis have vowed to continue business as usual despite the emerging threat of Covid-19 causing havoc to the calendar over the coming months.

 

The worldwide outbreak has claimed its biggest victim this week after the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells was cancelled on health grounds. Leaving players in limbo as to where they go next and if any more tournaments will follow suit. The decision was made after a public health emergency was declared in Coachella Valley following their first case of Covid 19. Since then, local authorities have reported at least five more cases.

“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, Professor of Medicine and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Southern California. “It is not in the public interest of fans, players and neighboring areas for this tournament to proceed. We all have to join together to protect the community from the coronavirus outbreak.”

Cancelling Indian Wells will not have just a major impact on the sport. It is also the local economy. The Associated Press said the economic impact of the tournament to its surrounding area topped $400 million in the latest survey conducted back in 2017. The two-week event sold 475,000 tickets in 2019.

The next tournament set to take place is the Miami Open, which has a start date of March 23rd. Although it is touch and go if it will go ahead as planned. Recently the nearby Ultra festival, which was set to get underway at the same time, was cancelled due to concerns it could be a breeding ground for the virus. Furthermore, the Florida Department of Health has issued an advisory to individuals who have travelled internationally to isolate for 14 days from their arrival back in the United States.

Nevertheless, the Miami Open has said they are ‘moving forward as scheduled’ in a statement issued on Monday. Although they state that they will continue to monitor the situation with local, state and federal officials.

All options on the table

Both governing bodies of the men’s and women’s tour are hopeful that no more cancellations will happen. However, this doesn’t mean that there won’t be with the European clay swing starting next month. The Barcelona Open has postponed their tournament presentation scheduled for this week due to the outbreak. The tournament is set to get underway on April 18th.

Andrea Gaudenzi is the chairman of the ATP and a former player himself. He has stated that the calendar will remain ‘status quo’ beyond Indian Wells. Saying that ‘all options are on the table.’

“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. We are committed to exploring all options for the operation of upcoming tournaments as the health and safety of our players and all other stakeholders remain our top priority.” Gaudenzi said in a statement.

Steve Simon, who is the head of the WTA Tour, has stressed it is too early to speculate what will happen in the near future. Prior to Indian Wells, two women’s tournaments in the Chinese cities of Xi’an and Kunming scheduled for April have been cancelled.

“We understand the decision which has been made in the interest of public health and safety which is the top priority at this time. It is too soon to speculate about what will happen to other tournaments that follow. We will continue to closely monitor the situation. Health and safety will always come first.” Said Simon.

Over the weekend a rare joint-statement was released by the two bodies concerning Covid-19. In it, they outlined a series of ‘precautionary health measures’ that will be implemented at upcoming tournaments.

Grand Slams safe for now

At the end of May will see players flock to Paris for the next grand slam – the French Open. In figures published by authorities on March 10th, there has been more than 1200 cases of Covid-19 in the country with 30 deaths. In Paris specifically, they have already been cancellations of numerous events such as music concerns and the City’s half marathon.

However the French Tennis Federation (FFT) has insisted that the French Open will go ahead as planned. Although options being contemplated include the use of “gel and mask kits” and “cancellation of tickets for holders from affected areas.”

“We are on a 13-hectare site which allows the flow of spectators to be organised very differently from football stadiums,” FFT director general Jean-Francois Vilotte told AFP news last week.
“Even with the roof closed, Court Philippe Chatrier is an outdoor court,” he added.

As for Wimbledon in the summer, the I Newspaper has reported that the grass-court major remains ‘on’ for the moment. Although should it be cancelled, the organisers will be able to reimburse ticket holders. The British government has stated that there is currently no need to restrict sporting events.

“Wimbledon remains “on” at present, but that the iconic tennis tournament could be cancelled by government decree. In that instance, it is understood that insurance policies already in place would allow the All-England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, who run the tournament, to refund the huge numbers of tickets that are sold in advance.” The I reports.

Since its birth in 1877, Wimbledon has been cancelled 10 times. Although that was during both the first and second world wars. In comparison the French Open has only been cancelled six times since its beginning in 1891 – five times during the first world war and once (1940) during the second.

It remains to be seen how much devastation the unpredictable covid-19 outbreak will have on the tennis calendar this summer.

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Roger Federer Named Highest Earning Tennis Player Of Past 12 Months

He may have only played in one tournament but the Swiss maestro has made an extraordinary amount of money in recent months.

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Roger Federer has made more money than any other tennis player over the past year even though he has only played in one tournament, according to Forbes magazine.

 

The 20-time Grand Slam has been named the seventh highest paid athlete in the world by the publication which takes into account both on-court and off-court earnings. According to Forbes, Federer has made a total of $90M between May 2020 and May 2021. However, $89.7M of that is from endorsements. The Swiss Maestro missed most of last season on the Tour due to a right knee injury which required two surgical procedures. Since then, he has only played one tournament which was at the Qatar Open in March where he reached the semi-finals.

Forbes notes that Federer’s earnings come from endorsement deals with the likes of Rolex, Credit Suisse and Uniqlo. In 2018 he signed a 10-year deal with Uniqlo which is estimated to have a total value in the region of $300M.

It is possible that Federer’s fortunes could rise even more in the coming months amid reports that shoemaker ON is planning to launch an initial public offering as early as this autumn. Meaning that they will be offering shares to the public. Federer bought a stake in the company back in 2019. According to Bloomberg, the business could be valued in the region of $5 billion.

On the court, Federer is tuning up his game ahead of his return to competitive tennis next week at the Geneva Open. The 39-year-old has previously stated that his goal is to reach peak condition in time for the Wimbledon Championships. As to his title chances, rival Dominic Thiem recently told reporters in Rome that he shouldn’t be ruled out.

“I think so. Why not?” Thiem replied when asked if could go deep in a Grand Slam draw. “I think otherwise he wouldn’t be playing. He’s too good. He had I think too much success in the past also. I guess if he knows that he’s not playing for the big titles any more, he wouldn’t be playing. So I definitely expect him, especially in Wimbledon, that he can go very, very deep and also play for the title.”

Federer has won 103 ATP titles so far in his career which is the second highest tally in the Open Era after Jimmy Connors.

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French Open 2021: ‘Philanthropic’ Prize Money, Hour Of Freedom For Players And Murray’s Possible Wildcard

Details about the upcoming Grand Slam event have been revealed.

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The French Open has vowed to support those who have been the most severely affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic after publishing details of their plans.

 

A ‘Philanthropic’ prize money fund has been set out by the French Tennis Federation (FFT) which has been designed to help lower ranked players on the Tour participating. The money pot for this year’s event will be 34m euros which is a fall of roughly 4m euros compared to 2020. However, there will be no changes made to the winnings on offer during qualifying and the first two rounds of the singles tournaments.

In light of the current situation, we are proud to have once again opted for a philanthropic prize fund, which allows us to support the players who have been severely affected by the health crisis, financially-speaking,” tournament director Guy Forget said.

After delaying the start date of the tournament by a week earlier this year, the French Open will welcome fans to their event. Under an agreement with the government, 5388 spectators will be allowed to attend each day between 30th May to 8th June. Then from the 9th June they will welcome 5000 spectators with a ‘health passport’ to the Philippe Chatrier Court and the number allowed inside the stadium will increase to 13,146. However, only one out of the 10 night sessions will be opened to the public this year due to the 9pm curfew. The only exception will be on June 9th when the curfew is extended to 11pm.

As for the players, they will have to abide by a strict health and safety protocol which has been ‘inspired by the one adapted by the WTA and the ATP.’ Upon arrival at their hotels, they will be required to have a COVID-19 test within 72 hours of their first match. They will only be granted permission to attend Roland Garros if that test is negative. From then on, they will be tested every four days.

However, players will be allowed one hour each day to spend time ‘outside their social distance bubble.’ The idea being that they can go out for a jog or enjoy some ‘fresh air.’

“Our goal is not to put them in a necklace and attach them to their hotel or to the Roland Garros stadium,” Forget stated.

Forget says players will have access to restaurants and fitness facilities in their hotels but will not be allowed to train at Roland Garros on the day they don’t have matches.

Murray a wildcard contender

Former world No.1 Andy Murray faces a wait to see if he is eligible for a wildcard this year but Forget says he does ‘deserve’ one given his credentials. The Brit has fallen down to 123rd in the world and as it currently stands will have to take part in the qualifying tournament if he wishes to play at the Grand Slam.

“I know that Andy entered the qualifying (rounds), I know he’s practising right now in Rome, I saw him play some games and sets with Novak Djokovic,” Forget said.
“Andy is a great player, he sure deserves one (a wildcard). It is a discussion we have to have with him and our team. We want to see him in good shape, I hope he feels well.
“He hasn’t played any matches yet, which is obviously what any player wants to do before committing to a big tournament, especially when you are going to play the best-of-five sets.”

Murray is yet to play a singles match on the clay this season but is taking part in the doubles tournament at the Italian Open this week after receiving a last-minute entry. He is paired up with Liam Broady.

“It’s the French Open’s decision what they want to do – I’d love the opportunity to play there but I also respect they have lots of good players, lots of players ranked between 120 and 160, and I haven’t been fit for the last three or four months,” Murray told BBC Sport.
“I appreciate for them they would want to see me play matches. I’ve done all the training and physically I’m fit but it is different playing matches and that’s where I obviously need to prove myself.”

The French Open qualifying tournament will start on May 24th followed by the main draw a week later. Officials are yet to reveal which players they will issue wildcards to.

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Tennis Canada Considering Possibility Of Moving National Bank Open To Another Country

Whilst there is still hope of staging the tournament on home soil, Tennis Canada has had discussions with their American counterparts.

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Tennis Canada has held ‘productive dialogue’ with the government regarding staging this year’s National Bank Open but admits they are looking at a variety of options.

 

The staging of the tournament, which usually takes place during August, is critical for the national body as it generates 90% of their total revenue each year used to invest back into the sport. Known to some as the Canadian Open the event has been in existence for more than 100 years. It alternates every year between Toronto and Montreal in hosting the men’s or women’s event.

Providing an update on the status of this year’s event, Tennis Canada says they are confident in hosting the event in some capacity. The 2020 edition was forced to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. More recently in April the country also cancelled six Challenger tournaments.

“We remain confident there are still multiple options for our tournaments to be held in Montreal and Toronto this August, such as in broadcast-only or limited-fan models, both of which have already been planned for in detail,” Eugène Lapierre, Tournament Director of the Montreal National Bank Open, said in a statement.

Among the discussions currently taking place is the possibility of moving the event across the border to America. A similar concept to what happened last year with the Cincinnati Open moving to New York prior to the start of the US Open last year. Officials say this option would only take place if discussions with Canadian authorities are ‘exhausted.’ However, negotiations are already underway.

“Tennis Canada has also held preliminary conversations with the USTA to discuss what options might be available as an alternative in the United States. However, it is important to understand this would be considered only after we have exhausted our options in Canada,” Lapierre commented.

UbiTennis has learned that officials are considering moving the event to Cincinnati where the men’s and women’s tournament would be played in consecutive weeks. It would take place before the start of the Western and Southern Open. The state will lift their mask mandate and all remaining coronavirus health orders except those for nursing homes and assisted living facilities on June 2.

On May 11th Canada reported its lowest number of daily COVID-19 cases since March. More than 16.5 million people in the country have received at least one dose of a vaccine which works out to be roughly 40.5% of the population.

As it currently stands, the tournament is scheduled to take place from Aug. 7-15 with the women and men playing in Montreal and Toronto, respectively.

The National Bank Open is categorised as a Masters 1000 event for the men and as a WTA 1000 for the women. Rafael Nadal and Bianca Andreescu are the reigning champions.

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