Wimbledon Cancelled- What Does this Mean for Tennis?

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.

On the 1st April, the 134th Wimbledon Championships was cancelled due to Covid-19, and no, unfortunately this wasn’t an April Fool’s joke. The last time this happened was during World War Two.

Wimbledon was set to take place from the 29th June to the 12th July, and, unlike the French Open, the tournament has not announced a rescheduled date. In fact, the AELTC will not be rescheduling at all and instead have announced Wimbledon will return the following year, beginning on the 28th June 2021.

Ian Hewitt, the AELTC chairman, was disappointed to announce the news, but remained hopeful that Wimbledon would be able to help during this national pandemic. Hewitt said:

“It is a decision we have not taken lightly, but instead we can use the breadth of Wimbledon’s resources to help those in our local communities and beyond.”

Was there a realistic alternative?

Within the world of sport, there has been much talk of continuing to host events behind closed doors to reduce the chance of spreading the coronavirus through large groups.

While tennis behind closed doors could potentially work, it is a route the ITF, ATP and WTA should approach with caution. At this point, it would be very out of line with the current viewpoint concerning Covid-19. With numerous countries being in lock-down, it would undoubtedly feel odd to hear of tennis tournaments being played and, after Roland Garros rescheduled without liaising with other tournaments, the last thing tennis needs would be more bad press.

There is not just the health of players or spectators to consider, either. Although professional tennis is a game which only requires two people to play, linesmen, ball boys/ girls and umpires are all needed, too. While there will be ways around this, just because governing bodies could logistically make playing behind closed doors possible, it doesn’t necessarily mean it would be the right choice to take.

What does this mean for the players and the fans?

Unfortunately, very bad news. The entire grass court season has been cancelled. No Halle, no Eastbourne, no Queens.

In my last article, How Will Covid-19 Affect Tennis, I explored some of the possibilities tennis would be likely to take.

With the devastating news announced from Wimbledon, it is seeming more and more likely that a line will have to be drawn under tennis in 2020; it is difficult to picture the sport returning anytime soon when an international tour is made up from players from across the globe.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to predict which players this will suit more when tennis does return. Perhaps Djokovic possesses a slight advantage given as when tennis does return, it will likely be in the hard-court season; the surface he has shown remarkable consistency on this year, as well as throughout his whole career.

Meanwhile, those who are quick to point out Federer isn’t getting any younger should perhaps bear in mind both Djokovic and Nadal have previously taken time to adjust back to match play when away from the tour, whereas Federer has been able to summon some of his greatest play (let’s not forget that legendary 2017 Australian Open campaign).

It will be interesting to see how players such as Tsitsipas, Thiem, Medvedev and Zverev respond to the break. I believe Thiem and Medvedev will hit the ground running. Although their styles of play couldn’t be further apart, they have both shown a strong mentality in the last year; an aspect which will surely serve them well during this unpredictable time. I imagine Tsitsipas on the other hand will be a little more frustrated. He appears to be an extreme perfectionist, much like Nadal, which will undoubtedly serve him well in his career, but he could potentially grow frustrated at the prospect of not being able to compete. Zverev has received his fair share of criticism regarding his Grand Slam performances but made a real breakthrough in the recent Australian Open where he found some of his best tennis. He’ll be well worth a watch when the game returns to see if he can replicate his best play on the big stage.

My instinct is, however, no player will be at a major advantage or disadvantage, it will just be about who trains well during this global pandemic and who is able to make a fast return to match play.

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James Ashoo

I have an MSc Distinction in Sports Business and Management from the University of Liverpool. I also have a high of 5th in respective LTA tennis county rankings and I'm a big tennis fan!

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