Shortly after 9:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, a press release from the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, Calif. was sent saying that this year's tournament has been cancelled due to a confirmed local case of coronavirus (COVID-19).
INDIAN WELLS, Calif., March 8, 2020 – 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.”
“We appreciate the proactive stance tournament organizers are taking to ensure public health and safety,” said Martin Massiello, Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer, Eisenhower Health.
“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.”
Any patron who has purchased tickets directly from the tournament may request a refund for the 2020 tournament, or a credit for the 2021 tournament. Patrons can visit www.bnpparibasopen.com/coronavirus to request a refund or credit.
The tennis world was quick to react to the unprecedented conclusion. Players, such as John Millman, tried to make light news of the situation. Millman led Australia past Brazil to clinch a spot to November’s Davis Cup Finals, but had already departed Adelaide for California before the decision was made.
“If the news is true and Indian Wells is cancelled, I kind of wish I’d stayed and gone out after Davis Cup….” the former US Open quarterfinalist tweeted.
Mardy Fish, who captained the Americans to a clean 4-0 sweep against Uzbekistan, called the decision “wild.”
Denis Shapovalov posted, “I’m shook.”
Some players were quick to voice their displeasure about how the news reached them. Kirsten Flipkens and Sorana Cirstea both shared that they found out via Twitter. Flipkens also quoted several posts questioning the outcome and also encouraged her fellow competitors to retweet about the process, though Tennis Channel's Jon Werthiem tweeted two hours earlier that emergency player council meetings were underway.
Jon Wertheim's reaction to the cancellation of Indian Wells:
Former Indian Wells champion Naomi Osaka summed up her reaction in a single emoji: the pleading face.
As for playing the tournament without spectators, as some sporting events have done (see below), WTA CEO Steve Simon told Christopher Clarey of the New York Times that while the option was discussed at length, tournament organizers ultimately decided against it.
Simon also released a statement about the cancellation:
"First and foremost, there isn’t anything more important than protecting the health of our players, staff, volunteers and fans who attend our events. Based on the medical advice received on March 8, it is with regret that the 2020 BNP Paribas Open will not be held as scheduled this March. The WTA empathizes with those affected by the coronavirus in this region and around the world. We are disappointed our fans will not be able to come out and watch the event, and our players are also disappointed to not compete over the next two weeks, along with the sponsors who support the event. However, we understand the decision which has been made in the interest of public health and safety which is the top priority at this time. It is too soon to speculate about what will happen to other tournaments that follow. We will continue to closely monitor the situation. Health and safety will always come first."
A number of sporting events around the world have already been affected by precautionary health concerns over the coronavirus. In Italy, where the Lombardy region of the north has been quarantined due to the outbreak, Serie A soccer matches are being played with no fans in attendance. An ATP Challenger tournament in Madrid, Spain, to be held in three weeks, was cancelled. Some of this weekend's Davis Cup qualifying ties were also played in (mostly) empty arenas, and with ball persons prohibited from handling players' towels.
The Indian Wells and Miami tournaments were to both implement the following changes:
—Players and mascots will not hold hands when walking out on court
—Ball kids will be provided with gloves to wear on court
—Ball kids will not handle player towels during matches
—Ball kids will not handle player drinks during matches
—Players will be instructed to not distribute used towels, headbands, shirts, sweatbands, etc. to fans following matches or practice
—Players will not accept pens, tennis balls or other items to hold for autograph signing
Jamie Murray, the 26th-ranked doubles player in the world, gave his thoughts about the decision, and wondered what the tour will become in light of this news.
With Sunday night's news about the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, the focus now turns to the Miami Open—to say nothing of other significant sporting events around the world.
We will continue to update this story as it develops.