On Wednesday an announcement from The All England Club confirmed what many have both expected and feared in the world of tennis.
The Wimbledon Championships has been axed from the 2020 season due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It has been 75 years since the tournament was last dropped from the calendar and that was due to World War Two in 1945. To underline the uniqueness of the decision, the tournament has never been cancelled during peacetime (outside of the World Wars) since its birth in 1877.
“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.” AELTC Chairman Ian Hewitt said in a statement.
“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.”
Nobody can fault the action taken to cancel the grand slam. Coinciding with the announcement, the Department of Heath confirmed that a further 563 people in the UK have died from Covid-19 to bring the total to 2352. It is the first time there has been a rise of over 500.
Still, players are left devastated by the fact no Wimbledon will take place. The tournament is one like no other. It prides itself on tradition whilst trying to incorporate the latest technology to keep in line with the current world. Over the years, it has essentially transformed into a renowned brand. Illustrated by the 500,397 who attended the event last year over a 13-day period. For the players, it is the premier court that is in the hearts of many.
“Every time you come back and play at Wimbledon on Centre Court, you warm up and all you hear is the sound of the ball, your movement, your breathing, because people are so quiet. They really only applaud for good shots. They never applaud for unforced errors. It’s just a very respectful crowd. It’s such a totally different feel to anywhere else in the world.” World No.3 Roger Federer once said.
Federer holds the record for most Wimbledon titles won by a man at eight. He was tantalisingly close to a ninth in 2019 with two match points in the final, but lost to Novak Djokovic in a marathon encounter that lasted nearly five hours. For the Swiss maestro, the tournament is considered his best shot at adding to his grand slam tally.
— Roger Federer (@rogerfederer) April 1, 2020
Kevin Anderson reached the final of the tournament back in 2018 after coming through a marathon exchange with John Isner that lasted 396 minutes. The third-longest match to ever be played at Wimbledon.
“I’ve always had so many great memories at Wimbledon. The grass season will definitely be missed, but the most important thing right now for us to focus on is that we’re all staying healthy and safe at home.” The South African wrote on Twitter.
‘One of the happiest days of my life’
Like Djokovic, Simona Halep will have to wait until 2021 for a chance to defend her title at SW19. Last year she produced a sublime performance in the final when she simply broke down the game of 23-time grand slam champion Serena Williams with her high intensity and relentless shot-making. Becoming the first ever Romanian to win a singles trophy there.
“Last year’s final will forever be one of the happiest days of my life! But we are going through something bigger than tennis and Wimbledon will be back! And it means I have even longer to look forward to defending my title.” She said.
For Petra Kvitova the grass-court major has always had a special place in her heart. Following her second triumph at the 2014 Championships, the Czech spoke of her pride of being able to lift the title in front of tennis legend Martina Navratilova. An idol of Kvitova who is the most decorated singles player in Wimbledon history with nine titles.
“Not only is it a special tournament for me, but it’s a tournament that has been part of history for so long that it will leave a big hold in the Calendar,” said Kvitova.
“I will miss playing on the beautiful grass and wearing my whites, BUT of course we know it will be back next year. And Maybe we will all appreciate it even more.”
Billie Jean King knows better than most people how much Wimbledon has changed over the past 50 years. The American, who co-founded the WTA Tour, played her first tournament in 1961 when she won the doubles tournament. Since then, she has attended the All England Club every year without fail in some capacity. Regularly sitting in the royal box alongside many other living legends of the sport. Over an 18-year period King won a record 20 Wimbledon titles in both singles and doubles.
“I have been fortunate to go to Wimbledon every year since 1961 and I am certainly going to miss it this year.” She said.
“Right now, we need to make sure we are taking good care of ourselves and loved ones. These are challenging times for all of us and now is the time for us to do what is right for our world and what works for our sport.”
It is said that you never realise how much something means to you until it is taken away. A sentiment that many current and former players are expressing following the announcement. It is the latest blow in what has been a truly devastating year for both sport and the entire world.
Following the cancellation of Wimbledon, all professional tennis tournaments have also been cancelled until at least July.
Tennis Umpire Bernardes Suffers Heart Attack In Melbourne Quarantine
The well-known official is said to be ‘doing well’ after suffering a major health scare.
Renowned tennis umpire Carlos Bernardes was rushed to hospital after suffering a heart attack inside his hotel room, according to various sources.
The Brazilian tennis official was staying in one of the hotels currently used for quarantine in Melbourne. A picture of Bernardes being taken to hospital in an ambulance has been posted on social media but there have been no official statement from local authorities on the situation. It is understood that he is ‘doing well’ following the medical emergency.
Australian media reported that Bernardes was in ‘hard quarantine’ which is the system used for those who have been classed as potential contact cases of people who test positive for COVID-19. At present there are 72 players in this kind of quarantine after a series of flights en route to Australia reported positive cases. Under government rules, they are not allowed to leave their room for 14 days. Others are allowed to leave their rooms for up to five hours each day.
According to Brazilian tennis official Ricardo Reis Bernardes experienced no complications and he is continuing to be medicated. Reis has issued details concerning Bernardes’ condition in a statement which has been published by Tenis Brasil.
“He had a heart attack in the morning. We are at the same hotel. When I saw the ambulance arrive, I even sent him a photo saying that someone was not well, and he said: ‘I was the one who called. I am in pain. In the chest and such,” he said.
“Luckily he called quickly and the service came too.’
“It was a heart attack, the veins was clogged. But he was medicated and he spent a few hours in the hospital taking medication. We spoke several times yesterday afternoon and evening [Wednesday, Australian time].
“”Now, in the morning [Thursday], I haven’t talked to him yet. But he was well and medicated. They were going to put on a stent, but he didn’t have to. They had the veins unblocked and etc. And he was fine. In the afternoon and at night he was fine, we talked in the afternoon and at night and everything was fine “
Bernardes is a veteran Tour official after having worked on the ATP Tour since 1990. He has taken charge of numerous high-profile men’s matches including two US Open finals in 2006 and 2008, as well as the 2011 Wimbledon final.
Quarantine Drama: Players And Support Staff Warned For ‘Challenging Behaviour’ Amid Argument Over Rules
Officials and players are at a disagreement over the rules concerning who is deemed a ‘close contact’ of somebody who test positive for COVID-19.
The Commissioner for COVID-19 Quarantine in Victoria says she will tolerate no rule breaking by those staying in quarantine ahead of the Australian Open after a fourth confirmed test emerged on Sunday.
Emma Cassar said that there have been incidents of ‘challenging behaviour’ from both players and members of their teams in relation to the rules set out. Due to the pandemic, everybody has to go into a 14-day quarantine but the process has turned more complicated following a series of positive tests by those travelling on plans funded by Tennis Australia. The latest case involves a member of the broadcast team flying from Los Angeles.
The Australian government has ruled that everybody on board a plane where somebody has tested positive for the virus must go into a stricter form of quarantine where they must remain in their room and are not allowed to train outside. This has affected more than 40 players on two different flights from Abu Dhabi and another from Los Angeles. As it currently stands 62 people have been deemed close contacts of the four cases, three of which were announced on Saturday, according to Fox Australia.
To add to the drama, Cassar has confirmed that some players and their team members have already been given a warning for what she says is ‘challenging behaviour.’ Branding their actions as ‘dangerous acts that we can’t tolerate.’
“I can give you two examples – a player who opened his door to try and have a conversation with his training mate down the hallway. Again, he’s got a phone, you can pick up the phone and use the telephone as opposed to putting you and others at risk,” she said.
“The other was another gentleman who shouted some UberEats to some other people on the floor and was praising his great efforts and opened his door to do so.
“It is very low level, but they are dangerous acts that we cannot tolerate … they have been formerly warned, and Victoria Police will continue to follow up those who haven’t been spoken to yet.”
Even more extraordinary is the confirmation that extra police have been sent to the hotels where players are quarantined. Repeat offenders have been warned they could be fined or even transferred to a ‘complexed care hotel’ where a police officer stays outside their door.
Did the players know?
In regards to the quarantine process, some have questioned the transparency of the rules which has been set out. Critics have argued that they were never informed that should someone test positive on a plane everybody on board would have to isolate for 14 days.
World No.12 Belinda Bencic has gone as far as saying that the rules have been changed upon arrival in Melbourne. A view that has also been expressed by Alize Cornet, Yulia Putintseva and Sorana Cirstea.
“We made our decision to come here from rules that were sent to us. Then we arrived and received an information/rule book with more/new rules that we did not know about,” Bencic wrote on Twitter.
Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley has addressed those statements by saying that all players were informed that this would be a possible scenario that they would face. Leading up to the quarantine, all players and their teams should have been sent documents detailing their stay.
“The determination of who was and who wasn’t a close contact was going to be entirely up to the health department, and they’re doing what is necessary in order to keep our community safe,” he told Channel 9 TV.
“Obviously what has changed over the last several weeks is the new UK strain, which is more infectious, and there’s obviously a great desire by all of us to make sure that doesn’t come into our community.
Although the motion that the rules have changed in some capacity is disputed by Commissioner Cessar who stated that no adjustments to the policy will be made in the coming days.
“The rules of close contacts haven’t changed, and there’s no other way you can consider this. If you’re on a plane for 16 to 24 hours in air that circulates throughout the plane, you are a close contact,” she said.
“The program is set up to keep people safe. We will not be modifying the program or watering it down under any circumstances.”
Whilst there are ongoing discussions concerning the scheduling of tournaments taking place during the first week of February, Tiley has confirmed that the Australian Open start date of February 8th will remain unchanged.
24 Players In Isolation After Positive COVID-19 Tests On Australian Open Charter Flight
It is understood that Kei Nishikori and Victoria Azarenka are among those to be affected by the latest development.
Tennis Australia has been dealt a new blow to their preparations for the Melbourne Grand Slam after it was confirmed two people tested positive for COVID-19 on one of their flights.
A member of the flight crew and one passenger who was on Flight QR793 from Los Angeles Airport have tested positive for the virus. It has been reported by journalist Pablo Amalfitano that the coach of Lauren Davis, Edward Elliot, is the passenger who has tested positive. Although he reportedly claims that the result is a false positive.
A total of 79 people were on the flight with 24 of those being players such as Kei Nishikori, Victoria Azarenka, Sloane Stephens, Alison Riske, Vaskek Pospisil and Tennys Sandgren. Sandgren did test positive prior to the fight but was given the all clear to travel after it was deemed that he was ‘viral shedding.’
Due to their possible exposure to COVID-19 Australian health officials have instructed all players to isolate for 14 days and they will not be allowed to leave their room to train in what will be a big setback to their preparations.
“The Chief Health Officer has reviewed the flight and has determined that everyone on board needs to isolate and will be confined to their rooms for the 14-day quarantine,” a leaked email sent to players read. “We know this is not how you imagined your preparations for the AO would start but our entire team is here to support you and do everything that we can to get you through this.”
News of the positive tests was first reported online by the players themselves after they uploaded a leaked email detailing what had happened before Tennis Australia had a chance to publish a statement.
“We are communicating with everyone on this flight, and particularly the playing group whose conditions have now changed, to ensure their needs are being catered to as much as possible, and that they are fully appraised of the situation,” Tennis Australia chief Craig Tiley commented.
“Our thoughts are with the two people who tested positive on the flight and we wish them well for their recovery.”
Doubles specialist Artem Sitak, who was on board the plane, commented on the situation by giving an update to his followers on Instagram. The Russian-born New Zealand player is currently ranked 78th in the world and has won five ATP titles so far in his career.
“We’re all deemed close contact. I asked for a bike, so hopefully I’ll get one and stay in shape,” Sitak said. “We’ll probably be out on the 29th of January and head straight into the ATP 250 a few days after.
“Obviously not great, but that’s the risk we were all taking. They kind of warned us this was going to be at the discretion of the Australian government, Australian health authorities if something like this happened. It’s just unlucky that two of them contracted the virus.”
In a later update the 34-year-old confirmed that he has had a bike delivered to his room. |
Meanwhile, Japanese media have confirmed that all of Nishikori’s team has tested negative for the virus but the former US Open finalist will be training alone in his room.
The first series of tournaments are set to take place in Melbourne a week before the Australian Open on January 31st.
List of affected players
- Victoria Azarenka
- Sloane Stephens
- Kei Nishikori
- Tennys Sandgren
- Nicholas Monroe
- Santiago Gonzalez
- Artem Sitak
- Guido Pella
- Alison Riske
- Marcos Giron
- Vasek Pospisil
Note – list is incomplete and compiled via news agencies
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