The Indian Wells tennis tournament, the most prestigious event outside the Grand Slams and tour finals, was canceled on Sunday over concerns about the spread of the coronavirus in Southern California.
“There is too great a risk, at this time, to the public health of the Riverside County area in holding a large gathering of this size,” said David Agus, a doctor at the University of Southern California, with whom tournament organizers consulted about the potential health impact.
The tournament, a Masters 1000 event that was supposed to start on Tuesday, attracts the game’s top players from both the men’s and women’s side and drew a record 475,000 fans over its two-week run last year.
The news comes on the heels of the cancellation of music and entertainment festival South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, also out of concern about the virus.
“We appreciate the proactive stance tournament organizers are taking to ensure public health and safety,” said Martin Massiello, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Eisenhower Health, which operates in the area.
Organizers were prepared to look at the possibility of holding the tournament on another date, said tournament director Tommy Haas.
“We are very disappointed that the tournament will not take place, but the health and safety of the local community, fans, players, volunteers, sponsors, employees, vendors, and everyone involved with the event is of paramount importance,” Haas said.
Several players said they were shocked by the cancellation.
“Doesn’t bode well for the tour if IW canceled for 1 confirmed case in Coachella Valley,” pro tennis player Jamie Murray, brother of former world number one Andy Murray, said on Twitter.
“Broward county has more confirmed cases,” Murray said, referring to where the Miami Open is held.
“Monte Carlo borders northern Italy currently in lockdown. Rome Masters? French Open? Wimbledon?!!!”
Anyone who bought tickets directly from the tournament may request a refund or a credit for next year, organizers said.