Organizers of the BNP Paribas Open on Sunday canceled this year’s tournament at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, citing the public health emergency declared by the Riverside County Public Health Department following a recently confirmed local case of coronavirus .
“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,” organizers said in a statement released via email and on the tournament’s website. “This is following the guidance of medical professionals, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and State of California.”
Qualifying play was to have begun Monday. Main-draw play was to have begun Wednesday and end on March 22. Some players were already on site to practice and get accustomed to the hot, dry desert air.
“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,” tournament director Tommy Haas said. “We are prepared to hold the tournament on another date and will explore options.”
That could prove difficult, however, because of the busy schedules of the men’s and women’s tours.
Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage had reported early Sunday it was treating a patient for a presumptive case of the coronavirus. “We appreciate the proactive stance tournament organizers are taking to ensure public health and safety,” Martin Massiello, executive vice president of chief operating officer of Eisenhower Health said in a statement.
In elaborating on the reasons for the cancellation, the statement also quoted Dr. David Agus, a USC professor of medicine and bioengineering. “There is too great a risk, at this time, to the public health of the Riverside County area in holding a large gathering of this size,” Agus said. “It is not in the public interest of fans, players and neighboring areas for this tournament to proceed. We all have to join together to protect the community from the coronavirus outbreak.”
Attendance at last year’s event was announced as 475,000, including many days of two sessions.
The tournament is a popular and lucrative stop for the men’s and women’s tennis tours. Considered an unofficial fifth “major” behind the four Grand Slam events because of its luxurious surroundings, it annually draws top male and female players. This year’s prize money was set at more than $17 million.
Those who purchased tickets directly from the tournament can request a refund or request a credit for the 2021 tournament. Those requests can be made at www.bnpparibasopen.com/coronavirus.
Steve Simon, chairman and chief executive officer of the Women’s Tennis Assn., said his organization understands the reasons for the cancellation. He added, “It is too soon to speculate about what will happen to other tournaments that follow. We will continue to closely monitor the situation. Health and safety will always come first.”
The next high-level tournament on the calendar for the men and women is the Miami Open, scheduled for March 24 through April 4.
In each of the past two years the tournament has catapulted a young female player to stardom. Naomi Osaka won the women’s championship in 2018 and went on to win the U.S. Open six months later, her first Grand Slam singles event title. Last year, Canada’s Bianca Andreescu — a wildcard entrant — prevailed on the hardcourts at Indian Wells and went on to win the U.S. Open women’s title. Andreescu, plagued by a knee injury, previously said she would not defend her title.
There were other intriguing story lines to follow in the women’s field. Kim Clijsters, a four-time Grand Slam singles champion who recently ended a seven-year retirement, had been given a wild-card berth to continue her comeback at Indian Wells. Coco Gauff, the 15-year-old sensation who reached the third round of last year’s U.S. Open and the fourth round at this year’s Australian Open, was to have made her Indian Wells debut. And 21-year-old Sofia Kenin, who won this year’s Australian Open, won a tournament in Lyon, France, on Sunday and became the first to win two Women’s Tennis Assn. tournaments this year.
On the men’s side, world No. 1-ranked Novak Djokovic was to bring his 18-0 record this year to the desert. A five-time singles champion in the event, he had planned to compete in doubles as well, with Viktor Troicki. No. 2-ranked Rafael Nadal also was entered in doubles, with fellow Spaniard Marc Lopez. No. 3 Dominic Thiem, last year’s men’s champion, was to pair up with Grigor Dimitrov. World No. 4 Roger Federer had withdrawn to recover from knee surgery.