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Coronavirus: Season could be wiped out, says Tennis Australia chief

By June 21, 2020 No Comments
Ukraine's Elina Svitolina en route to beating Czech Marie Bouzkova to win the Monterrey Open in Mexico on March 8. Along with the Lyon Open, they were the last pieces of WTA Tour action before the coronavirus forced the suspension of the season. PHOT

Ukraine's Elina Svitolina en route to beating Czech Marie Bouzkova to win the Monterrey Open in Mexico on March 8. Along with the Lyon Open, they were the last pieces of WTA Tour action before the coronavirus forced the suspension of the season. PHOT

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

The tennis season screeched to a halt early last month 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 Women’s Tennis Association (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 disease.

“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 Jan 20-Feb 2 Australian Open is the only major of the year’s first three Grand Slams to remain-unscathed. The clay-court French Open was moved to September from its May start. Wimbledon organisers will announce the cancellation of the grass-court Grand Slam this week, according to German Tennis Federation vice-president Dirk Hordorff.

The US Open, the final Slam, is still set for Aug 24 to Sept 13.

In the meantime, with lower-level players reeling financially from the shutdown over the pandemic, the WTA said it is working to boost players’ earnings when the sport resumes and is also considering extending the season.

It told Reuters that it is “considering an extension to the current 44-week season to enable more tournaments to take place”. “It is our sincere hope to return to the court as soon as possible – when the health and safety of our players, fans and staff can be guaranteed.”

Recently, professional players who depend solely on match earnings have spoken about their financial concerns with little clarity on when the season can start again.

OUT OF WORK

Professional tennis players are independent contractors… As a result, a player’s compensation is based on on-court competition and when tournaments are not held, this puts a pause on their (main) revenue flow.

WTA STATEMENT

Sofia Shapatava, 31, the world No. 371 and a 16-year veteran, has pleaded with the ITF to help the hundreds of players who have been affected.

The Georgian, for one, has made barely US$3,000 (S$4,275) since the turn of the year.

“Players lower ranked than 250 will not be able to buy food in two to three weeks’ time,” she said.

The WTA also said that it hoped that “those in need the most could be compensated at the level they were expecting”.

It added: “But the needs are so great and the WTA unfortunately is not in a financial position to do that.

“Professional tennis players are independent contractors and not employees of the WTA. As a result, a player’s compensation is based on on-court competition and when tournaments are not held, this puts a pause on their (main) revenue flow. The WTA fully recognises the challenges these athletes are facing during this unprecedented situation.”

The ATP Tour is also looking at ways to support its players. “We are working hard on evaluating all options,” ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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