One of the most prestigious tournaments of the tennis season is cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Many players had already arrived in California, and qualifiers were set to begin on Monday, as organizers of the BNP Paribas Open announced Sunday night that they are calling off the tournament at Indian Wells.
The cancellation comes on the heels of the Riverside County Public Health Department declaring a public health emergency for the Coachella Valley on Sunday, amid news of the county's first locally acquired case of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus.
“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 in a press release on the tournament’s website. “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.”
Tournament organizers cancelled it on the advice of medical professionals, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and State of California.
The two-week event in the California desert is widely considered the fifth Grand Slam. There was plenty on the line for players at Indian Wells. The tournament is a Masters 1000 event on the men’s tour and a Premier Mandatory event on the women’s tour, awarding just over US $9.7 million worth of prize money in each field this year. Canada’s Bianca Andreescu won it last year, but was not going to defend her title this week due to a lingering knee injury.
Late last week, organizers at Indian Wells had announced a long list of new health measures they had planned in light of the coronavirus outbreak. Hundreds of hand-sanitizing stations were installed across tournament grounds, autograph opportunities had scaled back, and the ball kids were going to wear gloves and stop handling sweat-soaked player towels.
“We are very disappointed that the tournament will not take place, but the health and safety of the local community, fans, players, volunteers, sponsors, employees, vendors, and everyone involved with the event is of paramount importance,” said Tournament Director Tommy Haas. “We are prepared to hold the tournament on another date and will explore options.”
Organizers said any fans who held tickets could request a refund for the 2020 tournament or a credit for the 2021 tournament.