The 2020 international tennis calendar dwindled to a handful of events on Tuesday when the Madrid Open became the latest and least surprising casualty of the pandemic.
In a joint statement, the ATP and the WTA said the seemingly inevitable cancellation of the first of two remaining clay Masters events before the rescheduled French Open in September was “a decision that has been taken in line with local authorities due to health and safety concerns”.
The Italian Open in Rome, the other important warm-up event before Roland Garros, is still set to begin on 20 September but there are no guarantees in the schedule, which has been tweaked several times over the past five months. The first tournament since suspension in early March began in Sicily this week, with a weakened field in the Palermo Ladies Open.
The Madrid Open, where the two singles titles were won last year by Novak Djokovic and Kiki Bertens, is run by Feliciano López and Ion Tiriac and had already moved from May to 14 September. Despite upbeat claims by the tournament organisers in the past few days, it was always in the balance, given the recent outbreaks of the coronavirus in northern Spain.
Both Tours are watching daily developments in the spread and spike of the virus, and said an update to each of their schedules after the upcoming US Open at the end of August “will be published in due course”.
The mood is downbeat, players are unsure when and where to book their next flights, and signs are not encouraging that there is much left of the season.
The United States Tennis Association confirmed last week that the US Open would go ahead on 31 August, despite the virus holding a grip on many states there, with leading players less than committed to playing. It will almost certainly be missing the two top-ranked men in Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, the injured Roger Federer as well as the top two-ranked women’s players, Ashleigh Barty and Simona Halep.
The ATP chairman, Andrea Gaudenzi, said on Tuesday: “The circumstances concerning Covid-19 are continually evolving and we continue to take guidance from local authorities in our decision-making.”
Gaudenzi’s WTA counterpart, Steve Simon, said: “We are disappointed the Madrid Open will not be held this year but we are proud of the dedication set forth by Feliciano and the entire tournament team. We remain vigilant to ensure health and safety remains our top priority for all.”