Wimbledon has been cancelled, due to the coronavirus pandemic, for the first time since the Second World War, with All England Club chiefs making the tough decision at an emergency board meeting on Wednesday.
According to MailOnline, the coronavirus pandemic has put paid to many sporting events, and The Championships are the next to fall, with the UK death toll currently standing at 1,789.
It was considered impossible for the tournament to be moved back to later in the year, or to be played without fans, and so chiefs have pulled the plug entirely.
This is the first time that Wimbledon will not be staged since 1945. Only one Grand Slam has missed a year since the war, the 1986 Australian Open, and that was for the technical reason of the date shifting forward from December into January.
It is the biggest blow to hit Wimbledon since 1973, when 81 male players staged a boycott in protest at the refusal to allow Yugoslavian Nikki Pilic to enter, in a row over individuals being penalised for refusing to play in the Davis Cup.
The LTA have also confirmed all pre-Wimbledon tournaments including at The Queen’s Club, Nottingham and Eastbourne have also been cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The cancellation means that there will be no chance for Novak Djokovic and Simona Halep to defend their singles titles, while it is a huge blow to Roger Federer’s hopes of adding to his 20 Grand Slam titles. Serena Williams, who will also turn 39 in late summer, is another who is seeing their window closing.
June 29 to July 12 was the scheduled fortnight for Wimbledon this year, and due to the lack of daylight it will be impossible for the tournament to be played later in the year. Matches at Wimbledon, played outside on grass courts, often run late into the evening on each day of the tournament. Only Centre Court and No 1 Court have a roof to enable indoor matches in case of bad weather.
The French Open at Roland Garros, another outdoor championship, has been moved back to September, leaving Wimbledon chiefs with little choice but to scrap their tournament entirely until 2021.
There is increasing speculation over whether anything will happen at all in tennis this season, even though the French Open has pushed itself back to a start date of September 20.
Flushing Meadows, home to the US Open due to begin in late August, is currently seeing some of its indoor facilities converted into a temporary medical centre.
The decision came on Wednesday as All England Club board members met to discuss the situation, amid the ongoing lockdown in the United Kingdom.
Originally the decision over abandonment was due to be made in late April, because that is when preparations such as building temporary stands for events like the Fever Tree Championships at Queen’s begin.
However, events have moved at such a speed that meetings were brought forward, amid increasing warnings from government officials that social distancing could go on for another three to six months.
There have been over 25,000 positive cases of the coronavirus in the UK so far, with that number only expected to rise over the coming days and weeks.
One positive for The Championships, though, is that the financial damage will be limited by the Club’s extensive insurance policy, which guards against the coronavirus pandemic.
While the French Open on Tuesday admitted it could face losses of €260million (£230m) if it is not played this year, Wimbledon should be shielded from the worst effects of being cancelled.
Figures from 2018 showed that The Championships had an annual turnover of £254.8m. There will, inevitably, be some financial hit from the cancellation, such as a dip in merchandising and food revenue.
But refunds to the likes of ticketholders and television rights holders are expected to be covered.
One senior figure at the Club put the cost of the insurance policy at ‘around the low seven figures’, but it will look like good value in largely preserving the finances of British tennis.
As Sportsmail revealed at the weekend, the All England Club’s Risk and Finance Sub-Committee have long since insisted on a clause covering epidemics, and the policy has been accordingly upgraded in recent years.
The group, which has included some of the Club’s biggest hitters from the world of business over the years, is there to assess potential threats to the tournament happening. Financial director Richard Atkinson and former P&O Director Michael Gradon have been central figures in ensuring the big fortnight is properly insured.
The scenarios for disruption are varying, from terrorist incidents to the Queen dying and the country subsequently going into a period of national mourning.