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Wimbledon

Wimbledon off, French Open and Olympics postponed - what's left of the tennis season?

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Image credit: Reuters

ByEnis Koylu
01/04/2020 at 14:17 | Updated 01/04/2020 at 15:45

Following the sad news that Wimbledon will not take place in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, Eurosport looks at what can be salvaged of a very unusual tennis season.

Tennis is one of the sports to have been most ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic, with the entirety of the clay court season falling victim to the outbreak with the exception of the French Open, which has been pushed back three months to a slot encompassing late September and early October.

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Wimbledon announced on Wednesday that it will not take place altogether, while the Olympic Games, something of a holy grail for Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, will now take place in 2021.

There are major question marks about the future of the US Open, with the USTA admitting that they may be forced to change the dates, with New York the worst hit place in the USA, which in turn has the most recorded cases of any country on the planet.

The best hope for a prolonged period of Tour tennis could be the Asian swing, where crowds are low anyway so playing behind closed doors would not be a huge adjustment for the organisers. Both the ATP and WTA host a notable event in Beijing, while Shanghai and Wuhan boast showpiece tournaments for the men's and women's tours respectively.

With regard to the finishing stages of the ATP season, the Masters 1000 event in Paris and the ATP Finals in London would surely come under threat if there is, as some have anticipated, a second peak later in the year in Europe once the weather gets colder.

London's O2 Arena has been the home of the ATP Finals since 2009 but the event is set to move to Turin, Italy, in 2021, meaning that Stefanos Tsitsipas could be the last player to win the title in Britain for quite some time.

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In the women's game, the Tour stays more or less in the Far East until the end of the season, with the Tour Finals and the 'Elite Trophy' of the best of the rest both taking place in China, in Shenzhen and Zhuhai respectively.

However, there are doubts as to whether tennis can take place again this season at all.

Craig Tiley, the chief executive of Tennis Australia, believes the rest of the year could be lost altogether due to the logistical difficulties of holding a Tour sport, with athletes from various countries flying constantly to various other countries, all of which could have different levels of coronavirus problems.

"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 WTA says it is looking at all options to ensure that more tennis is played this year.

"The WTA is diligently working with our tournaments to maximize earning possibilities when the professional tennis circuit is able to resume and 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 or our players, fans and staff can be guaranteed, we will be back competing."

Unorthodox and unfamiliar as this season may be, there is plenty to play for in tennis this year.

Serena Williams is running out of time to overhaul Margaret Court's record of 23 Grand Slam titles, having equalled the Australian great's tally three years ago. Roger Federer is now 38 and will be wanting to win one last major to cap his extraordinary career, while Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are rapidly approaching their mid-30s and will be loathe to miss opportunities to level their Swiss rival's record of 20 Slam titles.

The likes of Tsitsipas, Daniil Medvedev, Bianca Andreescu and Sofia Kenin will be hopeful of kicking on and establishing themselves as the rising stars of the game.

Cancellation of the remainder of the season will be an absolute last resort but it may be a reality that the tennis-loving public may have to live with.

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