The ATP and WTA have jointly announced Wednesday that the suspension of play on both tours has been extended to June 7, a decision that eliminates the entire clay-court swing through Europe.
The decision also applies to the ATP Challenger Tour and ITF World Tennis Tour. In addition, the ATP and WTA world rankings will be frozen until further notice.
“The challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic to professional tennis demand greater collaboration than ever from everyone in the tennis community in order for the sport to move forward collectively in the best interest of players, tournaments and fans,” the tours wrote in a joint statement. “We are assessing all options related to preserving and maximising the tennis calendar based on various return dates for the Tours, which remains an unknown at this time.”
All told, some 30 main tour ATP and WTA events will have gone unplayed if the tour resumes on the new date with the first of the grass-court tune-up events.
The most significant tournaments to be canceled under the new start date are the combined (ATP and WTA) top-tier events — and French Open tune-ups — in Madrid and Rome. Initially, the tours were suspended until late April (ATP) and early May (WTA). Now, four of the tours’ premier sub-Slam events will not be held this year, barring a reshuffling of the calendar.
“As it looks right now, we’ll be lucky to have any kind of a tennis season,” veteran Dutch coach Sven Groeneveld told ESPN. “If the calendar gets reshuffled, all of us will need to be very flexible. The players will have to adapt.”
A reshuffling may already be under way, triggered by the French Open’s decision Tuesday, to move to a new date despite conflicts the move creates on the tennis calendar.
While escalating concerns over the spread of the coronavirus drove this decision, the Euroclay events also lost some of their luster after French Open officials chose to move their event, leaving a two-week hole in the calendar. The plan triggered widespread criticism of the French, whose partners (including the three other Grand Slam events, the ATP and WTA) publicly claimed that they had not been consulted.
“What was important for us was that the tournament continue,” Bernard Giudicelli, president of the French Tennis Federation, said in a news conference on Tuesday in Paris. “We would not have accepted that clay-court tennis be swept off the international schedule.”
The unilateral action by the French may have played a significant role in accomplishing exactly what Giudicelli said the French would not accept.