The coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, continues to spread across the globe and is. So far we've seen soccer games in Italy played behind closed doors, the NBA inform teams they should stop post-game handshakes and the NHL ban media from team dressing rooms.
In the latest development, an ATP and WTA Tour tennis tournament has been shut down, making it the first major sports event in the U.S. to be canceled because of the outbreak. Late on Sunday night, the 2020 BNP Paribas Open issued a press release saying this year's event will not take place because the Coachella Valley in California is now under a public health emergency:
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.
Tournament director Tommy Haas indicated that they will try to hold the tournament at a later date.
"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," Haas said. "We are prepared to hold the tournament on another date and will explore options."
The BNP Paribas Open, also known as Indian Wells Masters, is one of nine ATP Tour Masters 1000 tournaments. The only events on the ATP Tour calendar more important than that group of tournaments are the four Grand Slams and the ATP Finals. Players earn more points toward their world ranking in these events. On the WTA Tour, it is one of four Premier Mandatory events, which are the highest category of tournaments that feature greater ranking points and prize money than all other tournaments except the four majors and WTA Finals.
Indian Wells was set to be the first Masters event of the season, and was the biggest tournament on the calendar since the Australian Open back in February. The cancellation will obviously throw a bit of a wrench into the season, as it will impact rankings, as well as travel plans; some players were already en route to California.