Wimbledon has been cancelled for the first time since the Second World War after an emergency meeting of the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC).
Talks took place on Wednesday to determine whether it would be possible to either stage the event - scheduled to begin on 29 June – as planned or postpone until a later date in the year once the coronavirus pandemic has subsided.
However, organisers reluctantly accepted that rescheduling the Grand Slam would prove too problematic, with the 134th Championships now set to be staged from 28 June to 11 July 2021.
A statement released by the AELTC read: “It is with great regret that the AELTC has today decided that The Championships 2020 will be cancelled due to public health concerns linked to the coronavirus epidemic.
“Uppermost in our mind has been the health and safety of all of those who come together to make Wimbledon happen – the public in the UK and visitors from around the world, our players, guests, members, staff, volunteers, partners, contractors, and local residents – as well as our broader responsibility to society’s efforts to tackle this global challenge to our way of life.
“Since the emergence of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in January, we have followed guidance from the UK Government and public health authorities in relation to our year-round operations, alongside developing an understanding of the likely trajectory of the outbreak in the UK.
“With the likelihood that the Government’s measures will continue for many months, it is our view that we must act responsibly to protect the large numbers of people required to prepare The Championships from being at risk – from the training of ball boys and girls to thousands of officials, line judges, stewards, players, suppliers, media and contractors who convene on the AELTC Grounds – and equally to consider that the people, supplies and services legally required to stage The Championships would not be available at any point this summer, thus ruling out postponement.”
Ian Hewitt, AELTC Chairman, added: “This is a decision that we have not taken lightly, and we have done so with the highest regard for public health and the wellbeing of all those who come together to make Wimbledon happen.
“It has weighed heavily on our minds that the staging of The Championships has only been interrupted previously by World Wars 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, and instead concentrate on how we can use the breadth of Wimbledon’s resources to help those in our local communities and beyond.
“Our thoughts are with all those who have been and continue to be affected by these unprecedented times.”
The US Tennis Association (USTA) remains adamant that the US Open will go ahead as planned in late August despite the ATP and WTA Tour both confirming that they have extended the suspension of the current season until 13 July.
“We understand the unique circumstances facing the All England Lawn and Tennis Club and the reasoning behind the decision to cancel the 2020 Wimbledon Championships,” a USTA statement read. “At this time the USTA still plans to host the US Open as scheduled, and we continue to hone plans to stage the tournament.
“The USTA is carefully monitoring the rapidly-changing environment surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, and is preparing for all contingencies.”