Coronavirus pandemic

Wimbledon cancellation shocks stars

LONDON • The decision to cancel Wimbledon amid the coronavirus pandemic has sparked fears Roger Federer and Serena Williams may have played their last match at the All England Club.

Wednesday's decision to axe the grass-court Major - the first time a Grand Slam has been nixed since 1945, the year World War II ended - left the tennis world in shock.

But veterans Federer and Williams will be hurting more than most players. Both will turn 39 this year and are near the end of their glittering careers.

For Federer, it is another opportunity missed to extend his record 20 Slam titles on a surface he loves the most. The Swiss has won a record eight Wimbledon titles on Centre Court. For Williams, it means another missed chance to equal Margaret Court's record of 24 Slam singles titles. The American, a seven-time singles champion at Wimbledon and a finalist in the last two years, would have been one of, if not the favourite, in London.

Federer was rocked by the announcement, tweeting he was "devastated", while Williams was equally floored, tweeting she was "shooked (sic)".

Wimbledon was due to run for two weeks from June 29, with Novak Djokovic and Simona Halep set to defend their singles titles.

However, tournament organisers were left with no choice but to cancel the blue-riband event, first staged in 1877, as the Covid-19 crisis meant it was near impossible to reschedule the Slam later in the tennis calendar.

While Centre Court and Court One boast a roof, playing elite-level tennis outdoors on grass would have been extremely challenging in late summer or autumn with a lack of light and problems caused by dew forming on the surface late in the day.

Halep, who defeated Williams to lift her second Major last year, tweeted: "So sad to hear Wimbledon won't take place this year. Last year's final will forever be one of the happiest days of my life. But we are going through something bigger than tennis and Wimbledon will be back. And it means I have even longer to look forward to defending my title."

With the French Open also postponed until Sept 20 and the ATP and WTA Tours on hold until July 13 at the earliest, fears are now mounting that the US Open, traditionally the final Slam of the year, will be the next one to fall by the wayside.

While Danny Zausner, managing director of the US Tennis Association, said on Tuesday cancellation was not considered and "we're still planning accordingly", any decision remains up in the air given its venue, the Billie Jean King National Tennis Centre in New York, has been turned into a makeshift field hospital. He added: "It (the US Open) seems so trivial in light of what's going on in the city and the state."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 03, 2020, with the headline 'Wimbledon cancellation shocks stars'. Print Edition | Subscribe