A detail view of an umbrellas as rain delays the start of play on day six of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club at Wimbledon. Picture: DAN KITWOOD / GETTY IMAGES
A detail view of an umbrellas as rain delays the start of play on day six of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club at Wimbledon. Picture: DAN KITWOOD / GETTY IMAGES

London — Wimbledon organisers on Wednesday scrapped the grass court Grand Slam for the first time since World War 2 as the coronavirus wreaks further havoc on the global sporting calendar.

The cancellation of the only grass court major at the All England Club leaves the season in disarray, with no tennis due to be played until mid-July.

“Devastated,” tweeted eight-time champion Roger Federer.

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 they had made the decision with “great regret”.

All England Club chair Ian Hewitt said the decision had not been taken lightly.

“It has weighed heavily on our minds that the staging of The Championships has only been interrupted previously by world wars,” he said.

“But, following thorough and extensive consideration of all scenarios, we believe that it is a measure of this global crisis that it is ultimately the right decision to cancel this year’s Championships.”

Halep 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.”

The decision to scrap the tournament was widely expected, with the world struggling to contain the spread of Covid-19, which has infected more than 840,000 people worldwide and killed over 40,000.

It also prompted the ATP and WTA to cancel the grass court swing in the build-up to Wimbledon, meaning the tennis season will not now recommence until July 13 at the earliest.

Organisers had earlier ruled out playing the Grand Slam behind closed doors and postponing the event would also create its own problems.

Becker plea

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

“I really hope Wimbledon will wait until the end of April for decision!” he tweeted. “The tourney is first week of July ... patience is a virtue.”

But former women’s world No 1 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 the 2019 final by Halep, is stuck on 23 Grand Slam singles titles — agonisingly one away from equalling Margaret Court’s record.

The French Tennis Federation provoked widespread anger with its unilateral decision to move the French Open from its original May 24 start date to begin on September 20.

That puts the start only one week after the planned date of the US Open men’s final. US Open organisers still plan to host the Grand Slam event starting August 31 in New York, the US Tennis Association said on Wednesday in the wake of Wimbledon being cancelled.

Even as indoor courts at the National Tennis centre were being used as a makeshift coronavirus hospital facility, the US Tennis Association said it will monitor the pandemic and alter plans as needed.

“At this time, the USTA still plans to host the US Open as scheduled, and we continue to hone plans to stage the tournament,” the association said. “The USTA is carefully monitoring the rapidly changing environment surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, and is preparing for all contingencies.”

New York remains the hardest-hit area in the US, turning tennis courts into a hospital zone and the Louis Armstrong Stadium into a meal assembly area for patients, volunteers and area schoolchildren.

The USTA is following the advice of health experts in making its next moves. “We also rely on the USTA’s medical advisory group as well as governmental and security officials to ensure that we have the broadest understanding of this fluid situation,” the USTA said.”

AFP