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Indian Wells tennis called off due to coronavirus

Tennis was hurled into the coronavirus maelstrom on Monday after the overnight cancellation of the Indian Wells Masters, the biggest event outside the four majors. 

It also looks likely that the similarly important Miami Open, scheduled to start on 25 March, will be called off.

Rolling disruptions to the schedule will continue, according to informed sources, although they say it is too early to make a call on the French Open or Wimbledon in mid-summer. Tennis’s participation in the Tokyo Olympics in July – along with that of all other sports – will be determined further down the road by the International Olympic Committee, who so far have dithered with spectacular predictability.

As for the European clay season which starts next month, there is mounting speculation about the viability of Monte Carlo (whose directors are expected to decide within the next 10 days), Madrid, Barcelona and Rome, the lead-up to the French Open.

The Guardian understands that tournaments and the game’s main governing bodies – ITF, ATP, WTA, and the grand slam tournament directors – will be heavily influenced not just by public opinion but regional and global politics, as well as the constrictions of insurance policies.

“It would be foolhardy for a tournament to unilaterally cancel unless it had the safeguard of government or local health authority backing,” an insider close to the organisation of a tournament in Europe said on Monday.

He added: “If outside agencies recommend caution or cancellation because of health concerns, no tournament director is going to risk either the lives of players, spectators and staff, nor take a financial hit by going ahead with the event and voiding an insurance policy.”

Haas still wants to hold the Indian Wells Masters later in the year, but that is a slim hope, given the crowded calendar – even if it looks almost sure the schedule will be shredded in coming weeks and months.

While the ATP has been quiet on the hourly-changing dilemma for the sport, Steve Simon, chairman and chief executive of the WTA, responded quickly.

“First and foremost,” he said in a statement, “there isn’t anything more important than protecting the health of our players, staff, volunteers and fans who attend our events. We understand the decision, which has been made in the interest of public health and safety, which is the top priority at this time.”

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