Tough for game to resume this year, says Tennis Australia chief


MUMBAI (Reuters) – Tennis could lose the remainder of the 2020 season to the coronavirus pandemic, Tennis Australia (TA) chief executive Craig Tiley has said.

The tennis season screeched to a halt in early March due to the respiratory illness, which has infected almost 800,000 in the world while killing over 38,500 since emerging in China late last year.

The men’s ATP Tour and the WTA, which runs the women’s circuit, have suspended all tournaments until June 7 after countries started locking down borders to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

“My personal view is I think for tennis to come back this year is going to be tough,” Tiley told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

“It relies on global travel, and I think that’s probably the last thing that’s going to come back. I think sports that have a domestic focus are in a strong position and sports that have a global focus are more challenged.”

The Australian Open, which started in January, has so far been the only Grand Slam that was not impacted in 2020 with the French Open organizers moving the claycourt major back to September from its May start.

Wimbledon organizers will announce the cancellation of the grasscourt Grand Slam this week, according to German Tennis Federation vice-president Dirk Hordorff.

Tiley said TA was planning to run next year’s Australian Open on schedule.

“We’ve got to plan for the worst and hope for the best,” he said.

“Tomorrow morning we wake up and there is some miracle cure or some concoction of drugs that really helps, or they’re on a path to a vaccine. (But) from all the literature you read, it doesn’t seem likely in the immediate future.

“(When) you can travel globally is when tennis can come back, from a pro level. From a local level, we can start right away and that’s what we would be focused on at the beginning.”

The French Tennis Federation came under heavy criticism from tennis players around the world at the lack of communication as the new dates clashed with several other events already featuring on the calendar.

The new French Open dates mean the claycourt major will start at Roland Garros a week after the conclusion of the U.S. Open on the hard courts of Flushing Meadows in New York.

It also clashes with the Sept. 25-27 Laver Cup, a team event co-created by Roger Federer and sanctioned by the ATP.

TA is a stakeholder of the Laver Cup along with U.S. Open organizers United States Tennis Association.

Tiley said “deep conversations” were underway to resolve the scheduling dispute.

Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Pritha Sarkar