AAP Tennis

Wimbledon canned for 1st time since WWII

By AAP Newswire

For the first time in its nearly century-and-a-half history, Wimbledon was cancelled for a reason other than war as it became the latest major sporting event in 2020 to fall victim of the coronavirus pandemic.

Eight-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer surely spoke for many tennis players, officials and fans with a one-word message on Twitter: "Devastated."

With Britain under a nationwide lockdown, the All England Club announced its decision to call off its storied two-week grass-court tennis tournament, something that hadn't happened to the sport's oldest Grand Slam event in 75 years.

"It has weighed heavily on our minds that the staging of The Championships has only been interrupted previously by World Wars," club chairman Ian Hewitt said.

"But, following thorough and extensive consideration of all scenarios, we believe that it is a measure of this global crisis that it is ultimately the right decision to cancel this year's Championships..."

Wimbledon was scheduled to be played on the outskirts of London from June 29 to July 12.

Instead, the 134th edition of the tournament will be June 28 to July 11, 2021.

Also Wednesday, the ATP and WTA announced that the men's and women's professional tours would be suspended until at least July 13, bringing the number of elite tennis tournaments affected by the new coronavirus since early March to more than 30.

Wimbledon first was held in 1877 and has been contested every year since, with the exception of two stretches: from 1915-18 because of World War I, and from 1940-45 because of World War II.

Now the prestigious tournament - known for its carefully manicured grass, its Royal Box at Centre Court, its rules about wearing white, its strawberries and cream and, alas, its rain delays - joins the growing list of major sports events called off in 2020 because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

That includes the Tokyo Olympics - which have been pushed back 12 months.

Wimbledon is the first tennis grand slam tournament wiped out because of the coronavirus; the start of the French Open was postponed from late May to late September 20.

Shortly after the news came from Wimbledon, the U.S. Tennis Association issued a statement saying it "still plans to host the U.S. Open as scheduled," from August 31 to September 13 in New York.

Wednesday's decision by the All England Club means Novak Djokovic and Simona Halep will not get a chance to defend their Wimbledon titles from 2019.

"We are going through something bigger than tennis and Wimbledon will be back!" Halep wrote on social media.

"And it means I have even longer to look forward to defending my title."

Serena Williams retweeted the club's message about the cancellation and wrote: "I'm Shooked."