INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – There have been calls from the overcautious to cancel the BNP Paribas Open in recent days.
But every indication from the tournament itself was that it was taking extra precautions, and that everything was scheduled to go on as planned.
That was the public face of it, at least. Behind the scenes, you know they had to be really worried. And with the qualifying getting under way Monday morning, a call was going to have to be made.
On Sunday, there was an emergency gathering of the ATP Tour Player Council. Obviously a lot to discuss, as there’s no question the Miami Open is also on the fence, as some major events have already been canceled in Florida.
But the official announcement finally came at 6:45 p.m.
They used euphemisms like “will not be held at this time” and “postponed” and everything but “cancelled”. But there are probably contracts and insurance concerns and a lot of other things to be considered.
“The Riverside County Public Health Department has declared a public health emergency for the Coachella Valley after a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19) locally. As a result, the 2020 BNP Paribas Open will not take place at this time due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus and the safety of the participants and attendees at the event. This is following the guidance of medical professionals, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and State of California.
“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. “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.”
Alternate date being considered?
“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,” tournament director Tommy Haas said. “We are prepared to hold the tournament on another date and will explore options.”
One scenario that has been discussed – but clearly it’s too early to know if it has legs – is that Indian Wells and Miami might replace the Asian swing in the fall.
That this is even a possibility tells you how many ramifications the Corona virus is having on tennis. Not just tennis – every area of business and life.
But for our purposes, tennis.
And you know the Miami Open isn’t far behind.
Precautions, refunds and logistics
Last week, Indian Wells organizers offered to refund anyone who had purchased tickets and decided not to come. They have received about 1,700 requests so far, and have already begun processing them.
And it planned to institute a series of measures to try to ensure the safest, most hygienic conditions possible.
One element was the plan to put some 250 “hand sanitizing stations” around the grounds.
But that one ran into a serious snag as the company they were ordered from … canceled the order.
There has been a major run on such items; even hospitals are having trouble getting what they need.
Cancelling a tournament, an event of this magnitude? It’s a big deal, even if it’s hardly the first major event to be cancelled in the last few weeks.
On the Challenger and Futures side, a number of tournaments have been cancelled in China and Japan.
On the “outside the tennis bubble” side, a number of festivals and conferences have been canceled.
But Indian Wells, as the tennis world is literally descending upon the California desert as we speak?
Things just got real.