Wimbledon has become the latest sporting event to be cancelled because of the coronavirus crisis.
While the decision had looked inevitable for some time, since the virtual shutdown of world sport and the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics, the tennis tournament had been one of the few events not to have been officially cancelled or postponed.
But after emergency talks in recent days, the All England Lawn Tennis Club said on Wednesday it was impossible for the grass court grand slam, scheduled for June 29-July 12, to go ahead.
“It is with great regret that the AELTC has today decided that The Championships 2020 will be cancelled due to public health concerns linked to the coronavirus epidemic,” the club said.
The tournament will not be played until June 28-July 11, 2021.
Wimbledon first was held in 1877 and has been contested every year since, with the exception of two periods: From 1915-18 because of World War I, and from 1940-45 because of World War II.
“It has weighed heavily on our minds that the staging of the championships has only been interrupted previously by world wars,” club chairman Ian Hewitt 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, and instead concentrate on how we can use the breadth of Wimbledon’s resources to help those in our local communities and beyond.”
Elsewhere in tennis, the men’s ATP Tour and women’s WTA Tour are already suspended until at least June 7. However, it looks extremely unlikely that any professional tennis will be possible throughout the northern hemisphere summer as the pandemic worsens in Europe and the US.
The French Open, due to be held from May 24-June 7, has been postponed. It was controversially rescheduled by the French tennis federation for September 20-October 4, shortly after the end of the US Open.
Eight-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer reacted to the Wimbledon announcement with a single word, tweeting: “Devastated.”
Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova expressed how much she will miss competing at Wimbledon.
“Definitely a tough one to take, with the announcement of the cancellation of Wimbledon this year,” she wrote on Twitter.
“Not only is it a special tournament to me, but it’s a tournament that has been part of history for so long that it will leave a big hole in the calendar.
“I will miss playing on the beautiful grass and wearing my whites, BUT of course we know it will be back better than ever next year. And maybe we will all appreciate it even more! Stay safe and stay inside.”
Meanwhile, Coco Gauff, the American teenager who stunned everyone by reaching the last 16 in London last year, tweeted: “I’m gonna miss playing in Wimbledon this year. Stay safe everyone, love you guys.”