By Sudipto Ganguly
MUMBAI (Reuters) – The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) has said it hopes to forge ahead with the remainder of the 2020 world tour despite widespread concerns over the coronavirus outbreak that has seen a host of sports events canceled or postponed around the globe.
The virus outbreak has killed more than 3,000 people worldwide and infected almost 89,000, most of them in China.
Almost all sports have been impacted by the escalation in precautions taken against the spread of the virus since the first outbreak in China in December. Some qualifying events for the Olympic Games in Tokyo later this year have also been disrupted.
For a sport which needs players to fly around the world every week and play in front of stadiums filled with people, tennis could be hard hit as countries take measures to contain the virus.
China is a major location in WTA’s calendar and the Tour has already canceled two 125K series tournaments in China, which were scheduled to be held in April.
“We are proceeding with the remainder of the 2020 WTA Tour season as planned but we will be prepared to make any changes, if deemed necessary in due time,” the WTA told Reuters.
The April 27-May 3 Kunming Open in China’s Anning became the second tournament to be canceled after the Xi’an Open which was also scheduled for April.
Zhengzhou, Jiangxi, Guangzhou, Wuhan, Beijing, Tianjin and Zhuhai are all set to host WTA events in September and October during the tour’s Asian swing.
The top eight women’s singles players and the same number of doubles teams are then scheduled to assemble in Shenzen in November to compete in the season-ending WTA Finals – considered only below the four Grand Slams in terms of prestige and glamor.
The WTA said it is regularly communicating with health experts, local governments and travel agencies and passing those information to the players.
“There isn’t anything more important than protecting the health of our players, WTA and event staff, and fans who attend WTA events,” the association said.
“We are working closely with our tournaments, so they are in the best position to provide for health and safety precautions in their venues.”
The inaugural version of the Fed Cup Finals will also see the top women’s players of the world assemble in Budapest for the $18 million 12-nation event from April 14-19.
The International Tennis Federation – the custodians of the Fed Cup – said it is in constant consultation with independent medical and travel advisers and prepared to take any necessary measures based on expert advice.
The men’s ATP Tour also witnessed a number of its Challenger Tour events canceled in China in March and April, while the final of a Challenger event in Bergamo, Italy, was also canceled in February.
“We are in regular contact with our player and tournament members regarding the latest precautionary health measures and guidelines, as well as any travel advisories, and we continue to closely monitor the situation as it evolves,” the ATP Tour told Reuters.
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)