Cancelling Wimbledon Was Inevitable And So Was The Heartbreak That Followed
The outpouring of tributes shows why the grass-court major is one of the most special events in the world.
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.
Devastated https://t.co/Fg2c1EuTQY pic.twitter.com/cm1wE2VwIp
— 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.
SuperTennis Granted Rights To US Open Until 2027
SuperTennis will be the home for the US Open in Italy until 2027.
SuperTennis have been given exclusive rights to show the US Open in Italy until 2027 after a new agreement was reached.
The USTA and SportCast reached the agreement as announced in a press release.
SportCast are the Italian Tennis and Padel Federation Group company that manages the SuperTennis TV channel in Italy.
In the press released the USTA confirmed they reached a five year agreement with SportCast for SuperTennis to show the US Open until 2027.
The deal means that SuperTennis will show the best daily matches live and delayed alongside coverage on the SuperTenniX digital platform, which gives FITP members and subscribers access to stream all matches across the two week tournament.
It also means that the US Open joins Wimbledon, Davis Cup and a number of ATP and WTA events to be shown on SuperTennis.
Chief Commercial Officer at the USTA, Kristen Corio, had this to say on today’s announcement, “SuperTennis has proven to be a trusted home for the sport in Italy,” Corio said in the press release.
“With a number of Italian players at the forefront of this rising generation of talent, it’s an exciting time to begin this new partnership and we look forward to working together with SuperTennis to continue growing the audience for the US Open.”
Meanwhile the president of Italian Tennis and Padel Federation, Angelo Binaghi, was delighted with the latest news and talked about the impact it has on Italian tennis, “The Italian Tennis and Padel Federation continues its development policy through the promotion of great tennis in our country, and with the founding of the SuperTennis channel 15 years ago, it brought back the sport of tennis to our dedicated audience,” Binaghi said.
“Alongside providing extensive coverage of Wimbledon, we are now proud to make another tennis Grand Slam available to all Italian tennis fans. The US Open is a tournament that has recently provided some incredible stories, including the historic 2015 US Open final won by Flavia Pennetta over Roberta Vinci.
“The level of access that SuperTennis can provide to its viewers will only contribute to the further promotion of tennis and the increased support of our national tennis players.”
This year’s US Open will take place from the 28th of August until the 10th of September with Iga Swiatek and Carlos Alcaraz looking to defend their titles.
Undeterred Novak Djokovic Hopeful Of US Open Return In 2023
Novak Djokovic says he ‘really wants’ to play at this year’s US Open when it is likely he will be allowed to enter the country.
The 22-time Grand Slam champion is currently unable to enter American territory due to being unvaccinated against COVID-19. All foreign arrivals are required to be vaccinated before travelling to the country under an emergency law implemented to curb the spread of the virus. Although this law is expected to come to an end in May.
Djokovic had attempted to apply for a special exception which would have allowed him to play Masters 1000 events in Indian Wells and Miami but was refused by authorities. Even though he had the backing of the United States Tennis Association (USTA) who pledged their support on social media. Furthermore, American players who are unvaccinated are allowed to play in these events.
Speaking to CNN about his recent absence, a defiant Djokovic has insisted that he has no regrets about not being able to play. The Serbian has said in the past that he didn’t want to have the vaccine as he has concerns about the impact it might have on his body.
“I have no regrets,” Djokovic states. “I’ve learned through life that regrets only hold you back and basically make you live in the past. And I don’t want to do that. I also don’t want to live too much in the future. I want to be as much as in the present moment, but of course think about future, create a better future.”
On Monday Djokovic lost his No.1 ranking to Carlos Alcaraz who won the Indian Wells title. He has held the top spot for a total of 380 weeks so far in his career which is more than any other player – male or female – in the history of the sport.
“I congratulate Alcaraz. He absolutely deserves to come back to No.1,” Djokovic commented.
“It’s a pity that I wasn’t able to play in Indian Wells [and] Miami. I love those tournaments. I had plenty of success there. But at the same time, it is the conscious decision I made and I knew that there is always a possibility that I won’t go.”
Djokovic’s last match on American soil was back in September 2021 when he lost in the final of the US Open to Daniil Medvedev. He is a three-time champion at the Grand Slam and has also contested the final on six other occasions between 2007-2021.
The 35-year-old remains optimistic that he will return to New York later this year as long as the government emergency legislation is lifted.
“I really want to be playing there, want to be there,” Djokovic said. “I actually had in 2021 when I lost in the finals against (Daniil) Medvedev, probably one of the best moments I ever had with the New York crowd. And I’ve been fortunate to win that tournament three times, play many finals. And even though I lost that match, I received a lot of love and appreciation from people and I want to go back and I want to reconnect with the crowd there. So that’s something I’m looking forward to and hopefully it will happen.”
So far this year Djokovic has won two Tour titles in Adelaide and at the Australian Open. Out of 16 matches played, his only loss was to Medvedev at the Dubai Tennis Championships.
Wimbledon Likely To Scrap Ban On Russian Players, Says Two-Time Champion Murray
Andy Murray has told BBC Sport that he understands the ban implemented on Russian and Belarussian players competing at Wimbledon will be lifted this year.
The All England Club, as well as by British LTA, has been under pressure to conduct a u-turn on their policy following the backlash they received last year from both the ATP and WTA. In 2022 Britain became the only country on the Tour to ban players from their events as a result of the war in Ukraine which has claimed thousands of lives. Organisers said their decision to do so was based on advice from their government who voiced concern that Russia could use UK-based events as propaganda.
However, the governing bodies of men’s and women’s tennis condemned the move with both of them issuing fines to the LTA. It has been reported by The Telegraph newspaper that the WTA is willing to halve their $1M fine if athletes from the two nations are allowed to play this year. It has also been reported that officials are contemplating the possibility of requiring these players to sign some sort of contract to say they will not be making political gestures before being allowed to play. However, this has not been publicly confirmed.
Whilst there is yet to be any official statement, Murray appears confident that the ban will be lifted based on what he has heard. Murray, who donated more than £500,000 of his prize money from last season to charities supporting Ukrainian children affected by the war, has previously voiced his opposition to the 2022 ban.
“It’s a really difficult one and I do feel for the players who weren’t able to play last year – but I also understand the situation and why it’s really hard for Wimbledon to make a call on it as well,” Murray told BBC Sport.
“My understanding is that they are going to be allowed to play and I’m not going to be going nuts if that is the case.
“But if Wimbledon went down another route I would be understanding of that.”
Besides their financial penalty, Wimbledon lost their right to award ranking points last year for the first time in history. There have also been concerns that should the ban not be reversed, the rights for some events held in the UK such as Eastbourne could be removed and sold elsewhere.
Under current rules, players from Russia and Belarus are allowed to play on the Tour but only under a neutral status. They are currently suspended from all team competitions such as the Davis Cup.
Murray spoke about Wimbledon to reporters in Indian Wells ahead of his first round clash with Tomas Etcheverry of Argentina. So far this season he has won six out of nine matches played with his best run being to the final of the Qatar Open last month.
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