Pretoria, South Africa, 13 March 2020 – The ongoing effects of COVID-19 were felt by the tennis community on Thursday afternoon, when the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and the International Tennis Federation (ITF) announced a six week suspension of tournaments due to escalating concerns over the health crisis caused by the virus pandemic.
The impact of this decision has reached South Africa with the Potch Open (ATP Challenger 50 event) and the Ilana Kloss International (Women’s $25,000 ITF World Tour event) underway in Potchefstroom at the North-West University, and due to run until Sunday, being cancelled with immediate effect.
Tennis South Africa has today endorsed the collective decision of the ATP and the ITF to cancel the tournaments.
“We understand how disappointing it is for the players, fans, sponsors, the event hosts and the tournament staff who have worked tirelessly to deliver two international calibre events. However, we believe this is the correct outcome given the situation and risks attached,” said Richard Glover, CEO of Tennis South Africa.
“There is an over-riding human element to this situation that has to take precedence and considering the rapidly evolving nature of the pandemic, the international governing bodies have made this decision in order to allow overseas players to return home as soon as possible,” added Glover.
The six-week suspension comes in the wake of the World Health Organization’s declaration on Wednesday that COVID-19 constitutes a global pandemic and the 30-day travel restriction announced by the United States for foreign nationals from 26 European countries – with several other countries expected to do the same in the coming days.
Players participating in the Potchefstroom events will earn round losers’ points and round losers prize money for the round in which they reached.
Tennis South Africa is currently evaluating the risks associated with hosting several large local tournaments in the country in March and April – including the Growthpoint Junior Nationals – set to take place in Bloemfontein. However, at this stage there are no plans to cancel these events.
“We have a risk committee monitoring this complex situation on a daily basis and at this point, all our local tournaments will take place as scheduled. However, we are putting a number of preventive health care measures in place at host venues to try and ensure the welfare of all participants. Furthermore, this is a dynamic situation and so we will be providing weekly updates to the local tennis public, regarding the status of these events”, concluded Glover.