Yet Another Setback: Madrid Open shuts down amidst virus concerns

The 2020 tennis season has experienced yet another major setback: The cancellation of the Mutua Madrid Open. Here’s why the season is in jeopardy.

It seemed that the worst of the storm was over after the USTA announced that the 2020 Citi Open would not be held. The tides shifted after China vetoed the playing of any professional tennis tournament in 2020 but the future didn’t seem to look any bleaker than that piece of news. The September clay swing was staying put and Europe looked like the prime candidate to host the majority of tournaments for the rest of the year following Roland Garros.

That all may be in jeopardy after the news broke that the Mutua Madrid Open is set to be canceled. A report came out from a Madrid-based sports platform that the news is going to be made official later today.

https://twitter.com/As_MasDeporte/status/1290272151031803904

The main reason for the cancellation was due to the uncertainty of player safety and health during the week. Originally scheduled for September 13-20th, Madrid’s Deputy Public Health Council announced in a letter to the tournament director, Feliciano Lopez, that he “discouraged the event due to the impossibility of guaranteeing health security,”.

La Comunidad de Madrid, a través del viceconsejo de Salud Pública Antonio Zapatero (campeón de España máster de tenis y exdirector del hospital de campaña de IFEMA) hizo saber mediante una carta dirigida hace unos días a Feliciano López, director del torneo, que “desaconsejaba” el evento por la imposibilidad de garantizar la seguridad sanitaria. (via as.com)

Spain has experienced a worrying growth in the number of positive COVID-19 cases over the last month. After successfully containing the spread enough to bring the number of daily cases in the region to 200 on June 29th from 9,159 on March 26th, the daily case count has been steadily rising back into the thousands over the last 30 days.

July 31st saw a total of 3,092 new cases, which shot the total number of cases up to 38,863 for the entire month (the largest rise since May). It was clear that, over the past month, Madrid has gone from a safe tennis venue to one that would put the health of players and staff in major danger.

The Mutua Madrid Open was going to be played with 30% capacity but with the rise in cases, safety would not be guaranteed; neither would a bubble similar to that of the US Open. The cancellation of the tournament puts much, if not all, of the 2020 season at risk. The US Open is still going to be very unsafe for players as they enter into the world’s COVID-19 hotspot (the United States).

Europe was believed to be the safest possible option to restart the season after the various exhibition tournaments that ended successfully without any virus cases. The only event that did had fans, Novak Djokovic’s Adria Tour, was shut down after eight people (including four players) tested positive for the virus during the tour’s second leg in Croatia.

If Madrid needed to be canceled in order to protect everyone involved, it’s likely that the USTA will need to consider the possible consequences to holding the Citi Open and the US Open, regardless of the proposed bubble.

The same goes for the future of the entire 2020 season. Both the ATP and WTA’s Asian swings are in shambles after the China shutdowns went public. Both tours immediately gravitated to the idea of rescheduling the season in order to play as many events as possible. The scenario likely used Europe as its centerpiece for staging major tournaments but with the current news, the entire season is in doubt.

The Madrid Open was due to be played from September 13th-20th as part of the shortened 2020 clay swing. The Italian Open (Sept. 20th-27th) and Roland Garros (27th-Oct. 11th) are still scheduled to be held. The 2020 season restart begins today with the WTA Palermo Ladies Open.