THE Indian Wells Masters has become one of the highest-profile sporting events to be cancelled following the coronavirus outbreaks.
The likes of Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will no longer take part in the lucrative event in California after a confirmed case in the local area.
Djokovic was aiming to win the prestigous event for a record sixth time and knew victory in California would draw him level with Nadal on 35 Masters 1000 triumphs.
Dominic Thiem’s hopes of defending the title, nicknamed the ‘Grand Slam of the West’, are now on hold after he beat Roger Federer in the 2019 final.
Canadian Bianca Andreescu was the defending women’s champion but had also already withdrawn from the first of four Premier Mandatory events of the year due to a left knee injury.
But on the eve of the tournament, officials decided to scrap it.
A statement said: “The Riverside Country 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 Centres for Disease Control (CDC) and the State of California.”
Tournament director Tommy Haas added: “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.
“We are prepared to hold the tournament on another date and will explore options.”
Jamie Murray fears the French Open and Wimbledon are now under threat following the first major tennis tournament to be cancelled.
The doubles star, 34, tweeted: “This doesn’t bode well for the tour if IW (Indian Wells) cancelled for one confirmed case in Coachella Valley.
“Broward county (Miami Open home) has more confirmed cases.
“Monte Carlo borders northern Italy currently in lockdown. Rome Masters? French Open? Wimbledon?!!!”
The Indian Wells event was set to take place today but was called off on Sunday afternoon.
The event drew a record 475,000 fans over its two-week run last year.
Amazon Prime Video’s team of pundits and presenters, which includes former British No1 Greg Rusedski, flew to Southern California on Saturday.
Dr David Agus, Professor of Medicine and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Southern California, said: “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.
“It’s not in the public interest of fans, players and neighbouring areas for this tournament to proceed.
“We all have to join together to protect the community from the coronavirus outbreak.”
Martin Massiello, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Eisenhower Health, said: “We appreciate the proactive stance tournament organisers are taking to ensure public health and safety.”
Heather Watson, the British No2 female star, tweeted: “Really?!” before tweeting a poll asking if it was an overreaction or good decision to cancel the tournament.
While Nadal said: “You probably all heard the news. Indian Wells cancelled. We are here and still deciding what’s next.
“So sad for all that is happening around the world with this situation. Hopefully soon solutions from the authorities. Stay all well and safe.”
But Australian John Millman received some backlash on social media after he wrote: “If the news is true and Indian Wells is cancelled I kind of wish I’d stayed and gone out after Davis Cup…”
It is only the second time in the tournament’s history – and first since 1980 – that Indian Wells will not be completed.
In 1980, it was abandoned after the semi-finals due to heavy rain.
With the tennis calendar already so full, it seems unlikely that the event will be rearranged for later in the year.
Organisers have opened up the chance for fans who had bought tickets to claim a refund or claim a credit for the 2021 tournament.
It now raises the prospect that the Miami Open, which was meant to signal the return of Andy Murray after a pelvis injury, might also be cancelled. The event is scheduled to take place in two weeks’ time.
Six Nations matches involving Italy, Ireland and England have been called off as well as the UAE cycling tour, MotoGP events, the Chinese F1 Grand Prix and the IAAF World Athletics Indoors Championships.
Serie A matches have been played behind closed doors to avoid mass gatherings of people in one place.
According to the World Health Organisation, 11 people have died in the United States from Covid-19 from 213 confirmed cases.
Worldwide, there have been more than 3,800 fatalities and over 100,000 confirmed cases.
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