It would have been complicated, expensive and potentially risky to the health of the participants to hold a Rogers Cup in Toronto this August without fans. So it is officially off for this summer.
The news came as no surprise, while sporting events across the country continue to be postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Tennis Canada announced it on Wednesday as the ATP Tour unveiled its return-to-competition schedule, which will begin in late August, in the United States.
The men’s Rogers Cup was scheduled for Aug. 8-16 at York University. The women’s Rogers Cup – originally scheduled for the same week in Montreal – was called off back in April, when the Quebec government prohibited events through Aug. 31. The men will play in Toronto in 2021, and the women in Montreal.
All pro tennis has been on hold since Indian Wells was cancelled on short notice in mid-March. Both the ATP and WTA tours released their new-look schedules on Wednesday.
The ATP’s is slated to begin Aug. 14 in Washington. Then the Western & Southern Open (typically held in Cincinnati) and the U.S. Open will both take place at Flushing Meadows in New York, before the Tour heads to Europe in September. All events will be held with reduced or no fans on site.
Tennis Canada did exhaust all options for holding the Rogers Cup with no fans at its usual York University venue. It would have been complicated for Tennis Canada and the ATP. Keeping Toronto on the calendar would have meant travel for players and their personnel to an additional country before the U.S. stretch and likely added quarantine time.
“Organizing a closed-door event is complex and requires certain important health and operational protocols to be put in place,” Gavin Ziv, managing director of the Rogers Cup in Toronto, said in a statement. “We estimated that to organize and broadcast such a tournament, we would require having up to 450 people on-site. The safety of these people during the two weeks of the event would have been a concern for Tennis Canada and in the current context, the level of risk would have remained high.”
Tennis Canada already faces a devastating revenue shortage for 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and responded recently with massive staff reductions. Holding a Rogers Cup that could not make any money from live spectators would have put the organization even further in the hole.
“After having already absorbed a loss of $17-million in 2020, Tennis Canada cannot afford to increase this deficit,” said Michael Downey, president and chief executive officer of Tennis Canada. “As of today, there is no guarantee that a closed-door tournament would significantly mitigate those losses. Furthermore, knowing that we are unable to hold the women’s edition of the Rogers Cup, this goes against our precious support model for professional men’s and women’s tennis in Canada.”
The WTA Tour’s first event will be the Palermo Ladies Open in Italy on Aug. 3, then the Tour moves on to the United States. Live fans are not in the plans at this point.
Another highlight of the return to tennis included a second shift in date for the French Open, which has been moved from its usual May date to September. The main draw at Roland Garros will begin a week later than initially planned, now set to start on Sept. 27, and will tentatively include a week of qualifying.