Coronavirus: Indian Wells tennis becomes first big US sports casualty

The Indian Wells tournament is one of the biggest outside the four tennis Grand Slams. (AFP)
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Updated 09 March 2020

Coronavirus: Indian Wells tennis becomes first big US sports casualty

  • Tournament, one of the biggest outside the four tennis Grand Slams, canceled just days before it was due to begin
  • The tournament draws more than 400,000 fans each year to Indian Wells

LOS ANGELES: The ATP and WTA tennis tournament in Indian Wells, California, has been canceled over fears surrounding the new coronavirus outbreak, making it the first major sports event in the US to be scrubbed due to health concerns.
The tournament, one of the biggest outside the four tennis Grand Slams, was canceled just days before it was due to begin.
Officials said in a news release on Sunday that they opted to cancel because California health officials had declared a public health emergency for the Coachella Valley — in the desert east of Los Angeles — after a confirmed case of COVID-19.
“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.
Days earlier, organizers had said they planned to go ahead with extra health measures in place such as hand-sanitizing stations, beefed-up cleaning protocols and gloves for ball kids, volunteers and food workers.
The ATP and WTA had also issued virus-related guidelines, telling players not to accept items from fans to be autographed.
Before the cancelation, the tournament had offered to give refunds to anyone who had bought tickets, but did not want to attend.
The tournament draws more than 400,000 fans each year to Indian Wells, 27 kilometers southeast of Palm Springs.
Many of the players had already arrived in Indian Wells with qualifying matches scheduled to start on Monday and the main women’s draw beginning on Wednesday.
“I’m shook,” Canadian tennis star Denis Shapovalov wrote on his Twitter page.
The number of coronavirus cases in the US has exceeded 500 spread across more than 30 states.
“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 doctor 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.”
Indian Wells lasts two weeks and draws some of the largest crowds for a tennis event in North America. The number of competitors and lucrative prize money being offered for the men and women has helped earn it the nickname of “The Fifth Slam.”
There is also a men and women’s tournament scheduled for Miami later this month but there was no word on any changes to that event.
Following Miami, the tours head to Europe for the beginning of the clay court season. The run up to the French Open includes the ATP and WTA event in Rome, Italy, the hardest-hit European country with 366 deaths from the virus.
“It is too soon to speculate about what will happen to other tournaments that follow,” WTA chairman Steve Simon said on Sunday. “Health and safety will always come first.”
Simon told The New York Times they also considered holding matches without fans but scrapped that idea as well.
“We were supportive of the concept. But ultimately the tournament didn’t feel it was in their best interest,” he said.


Dortmund, Favre face tough questions after Bayern’s ‘big step’

Updated 29 May 2020

Dortmund, Favre face tough questions after Bayern’s ‘big step’

  • Several German newspapers have suggested Favre is set to leave at the end of the season

BERLIN: Borussia Dortmund visit bottom side Paderborn on Sunday with uncertainty surrounding the future of coach Lucien Favre after Tuesday’s 1-0 defeat by Bayern Munich left their Bundesliga title dreams in tatters.

Favre and Dortmund were forced to deny rumors that he is set to resign, and face Paderborn attempting to at least keep some pressure on reigning champions Bayern, who sit seven points clear with six matches remaining.

Second-placed Dortmund may also have to make do without Erling Braut Haaland, after the teenage sensation was injured against Bayern, reportedly in an accidental collision with the referee.

Swiss Favre was forced to clarify comments made on Tuesday when he said he would “talk about it (his future) in a few weeks,” saying the following day that he was not “giving up at all.”

Several German newspapers have suggested Favre is set to leave at the end of the season, with Niko Kovac, who was sacked by Bayern last year, reported to be his likely successor.

“We are certainly not having a coaching debate,” Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc insisted to Sport1.

“Lucien must have expressed himself misleadingly in a moment immediately after the game.”

Barring an unlikely late-season collapse from Bayern, it will be the second straight season that Favre’s Dortmund have pushed their rivals close in the title race before ultimately coming up short.

Dortmund led for much of the campaign last term but stumbled late to finish two points off the pace.

“We said before the season that we wanted to play for the title again,” added Zorc.

“We didn’t manage to be better than Bayern. Now we can be disappointed, take a deep breath, and then set a new goal for Sunday. Full focus is on second place.”

Dortmund will be confident of getting back on track against a Paderborn side who are rooted to the foot of the table, eight points adrift of the relegation playoff spot, despite three consecutive draws since the Bundesliga resumed following the coronavirus lockdown.

“We mustn’t talk of a miracle because there are still 18 points to be won,” said Paderborn coach Steffen Baumgart.

“As long as it’s still mathematically possible we have to give it everything we’ve got.”

Bayern are now firmly on track for a record-extending eighth straight title and on Saturday host a Fortuna Duesseldorf side who boosted their survival hopes with a 2-1 midweek win against freefalling Schalke.

“We set out to take a big step (against Dortmund). We succeeded. We showed a lot of determination,” said Bayern coach Hansi Flick.

Duesseldorf, who occupy the relegation playoff spot, are five points clear of second-bottom Werder Bremen, although the four-time Bundesliga champions have a game in hand.

Bremen, who have only spent one season out of the top flight since the Bundesliga’s formation in 1963, visit Schalke on Saturday.

Schalke coach David Wagner is under pressure after his side threw away their European hopes with a 10-match winless run, including three straight defeats since the restart of the season.

Dortmund will need Jadon Sancho to be back at his best on Sunday, with Haaland’s injury leaving them without a recognized out-and-out striker.

English winger Sancho is yet to start a game since the restart after his own fitness problems, but has featured as a subsitute in all three matches.

The 20-year-old has scored 17 goals in all competitions this season.