Thursday, 02 April 2020 05:38

Wimbledon cancelled first time in 75 years, Serena Williams, others react

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Wimbledon organisers have scrapped the oldest Grand Slam tennis tournament for the first time since World War II as the coronavirus wreaks further havoc on the global sporting calendar

The cancellation of the only grasscourt major at London's All England Club leaves the season in disarray, with no tennis set to be played until mid-July.

Wimbledon is the latest major summer sporting event to be called off, with Euro 2020 and the Tokyo Olympics postponed for 12 months.

It follows the postponement of the French Open, which was due to begin in May but has been rescheduled to 20 September-4 October.

"Devastated," tweeted eight-time champion Roger Federer, while Serena Williams, who has won the tournament seven times, said she was shocked by the momentous decision.

Wimbledon was due to run for two weeks from June 29, with Novak Djokovic and Simona Halep set to defend their singles titles.

But tournament chiefs bowed to the inevitable on Wednesday, saying in a statement that they had made the decision with "great regret".

All England Club chairman, Mr Ian Hewitt said the decision to cancel Wimbledon had not been taken lightly.

"This is a decision that we have not taken lightly, and we have done so with the highest regard for public health and the wellbeing of all those who come together to make Wimbledon happen," he said.

"It has weighed heavily on our minds that the staging of the Championships has only been interrupted previously by World Wars but, following thorough and extensive consideration of all scenarios, we believe it is ultimately the right decision to cancel this year's Championships, and instead concentrate on how we can use the breadth of Wimbledon's resources to help those in our local communities and beyond.

"Our thoughts are with all those who have been and continue to be affected by these unprecedented times." he added.

Halep however tweeted her disappointment.

"So sad to hear @Wimbledon won't take place this year," she said. "Last year's final will forever be one of the happiest days of my life! But we are going through something bigger than tennis and Wimbledon will be back! And it means I have even longer to look forward to defending my title."

Two-time champion Petra Kvitova said the cancellation was tough to take.

"I will miss playing on the beautiful grass and wearing my whites, BUT of course we know it will be back better than ever next year. And maybe we will all appreciate it even more!" she tweeted.

The decision to cancel Wimbledon was widely expected, with the world struggling to contain the spread of COVID-19, which has claimed more than 43,000 lives and infected more than 860,000 people, according to gathered data.

Organisers had earlier ruled out playing the event behind closed doors while postponing it would also have created its own problems, with shorter days later in the English summer.

ATP and WTA have also cancelled the grasscourt swing in the build-up to the tournament, meaning the tennis season will not now restart until July 13 at the earliest.

The US Tennis Association said it was sticking to its August 31 to September 13 dates for the US Open in New York.

"At this time USTA still plans to host the US Open as scheduled, and we continue to hone plans to stage the tournament," it said in a statement.

"USTA is carefully monitoring the rapidly changing environment surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, and is preparing for all contingencies."

Three-time Wimbledon champion Boris Becker on Tuesday pleaded for tournament chiefs to wait longer before making a decision.

But former women's world number one Amelie Mauresmo, the 2006 women's champion, said the 2020 season would probably need to be scrapped.

The cancellation of Wimbledon could mean multiple champions Federer, Serena Williams and Venus Williams have played at the All England Club for the final time.

Federer and Serena will be nearly 40 by the time of the 2021 championships and Venus will be 41.

Serena, beaten in last year's final by Halep, is stuck on 23 Grand Slam singles titles -- agonisingly one away from equalling Margaret Court's record.

 

AFP/BBC