Olympic postponement may be blessing for busy calendar


MUMBAI (Reuters) – The postponement of the Tokyo Olympics has disappointed athletes around the world but, if the coronavirus pandemic eases over the next few months, it could turn out to be a blessing for the tennis world.

The Tokyo Games, originally scheduled for July 24-Aug. 9, were postponed to 2021 on Tuesday as the world’s biggest sporting spectacle became the latest to fall prey to the coronavirus crisis.

Tennis has also been impacted by the flu-like disease that has killed more than 17,200 people worldwide since emerging in China late last year.

The professional tours have been suspended until June 7, wiping out the entire claycourt season and leaving players to count the financial cost of the tennis shutdown.

The schedule was thrown into further disarray following the French Tennis Federation’s (FFT) apparently unilateral decision to move the claycourt tournament to Sept. 20-Oct. 4 from its May start because of the outbreak.

The men’s ATP Tour and the WTA, which runs women’s tournaments, require their players to participate at the four Grand Slams, but the new French Open dates are yet to feature on the calendars of either association.

Most top tennis players in the world were expected to be in Tokyo for the Olympic tennis tournament, which was due to be held between July 25-Aug. 2, and would now have free time in their otherwise crammed schedule.

The window could also be on the radar of the Wimbledon officials with the grasscourt Grand Slam scheduled to start on June 29.

The All England Club said a decision was not imminent.

“We have been working on the basis that roughly eight weeks out from The Championships is when our build commences… which puts us at mid to late April,” a spokeswoman for the All England Club said.

The French Open’s revised schedule means the Grand Slam will start seven days after the U.S. Open is held on the hardcourts at New York’s Flushing Meadows and will clash with ATP tournaments in Metz, St. Petersburg, Chengdu, Sofia and Zhuhai.

WTA events in Guangzhou, Seoul, Tokyo and Wuhan and the exhibition Laver Cup, co-created by Roger Federer and part of the ATP Tour calendar, are also in the same range of dates.

While the Olympics do not offer ranking points or prize money, the Games have always lured top players with glory.

Swiss Stan Wawrinka, a multiple Grand Slam winner, welcomed the Tokyo delay by posting a picture on Twitter of himself and Federer wearing their men’s doubles gold medals from Beijing 2008 accompanied with the message “See you in 2021”.

For Japanese tennis player Kei Nishikori, the postponement would give him the opportunity to get into top shape for the Games at home.

“It’s a bit of a relief that it wasn’t a cancellation, and I think postponing turned out to be a good solution for all players,” Nishikori, who has not played since the U.S. Open due to a elbow injury, said in a video message on his official app.

“I’m really happy the Olympics will still happen in Tokyo in 2021.”

Petra Kvitova, who has won Wimbledon twice, was saddened by the postponement but supported the call.

“Instead of being disappointed, let’s look forward to making 2021 the best Olympics the world has ever seen!” she said.

Additional reporting by Martyn Herman in London; editing by Christian Radnedge