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Coronavirus: Wimbledon 2020 cancelled for the first time since WWII

Wimbledon has been called off this summer – one of the highest-profile sporting casualties of the worldwide coronavirus crisis.

For the first time since 1945 – the final year of the Second World War – there will be no Grand Slam event in SW19.

The famous two-week event, which was set to take place on Monday, June 29, was cancelled following an emergency board meeting held on teleconference between Wimbledon chiefs.

The decision was made by a committee involving four-time Wimbledon semi-finalist Tim Henman, former cabinet secretary Lord Gus O’Donnell, new chairman Ian Hewitt and ex-player turned sports administrator Debbie Jevans, who was involved in the running of the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.

It is understood Wimbledon will not suffer financial disaster because they took out an extensive insurance policy that guards against global pandemics.

Two-time winner Andy Murray said: “Very sad that the Fever-Tree Championships at Queen’s and Wimbledon have been cancelled this year.

“But with all that is going on in the world right now, everyone’s health is definitely the most important thing!

“Looking forward to getting back out on the grass next year already! Hope everyone is staying safe and healthy.”

The club will offer refunds to ticket holders who had hoped to be eating strawberries and cream in three months’ time.

The 13.5-acre All England Club grounds (which swells to 42 acres when car parks are included) will now be opened up for the use of the NHS.

This is the first time since 1945 that one of the four tennis majors has been axed.

There was no Australian Open in 1986 but that was because it was purposefully moved from a November slot to January 1987 instead.

Wimbledon were left with little choice because there is no guarantee that mass gathering rules will be lifted by the government come late June.

Holding the event behind closed doors was never an option according to the AELTC.

And regardless of fans, it takes more than 500 people to hold the event when you consider the number of players, officials, ballkids, locker-room attendants, caterers and security personnel involved.

Also there is an element of public perception. How could Wimbledon go ahead, with punters sipping champagne and food, as there are huge numbers of people dying across the country with COVID-19?

Nobody knows the health of the nation next month let alone in June and July.

Though the build for the Championships does not start in earnest until the end of April, Wimbledon bosses wanted to act decisively and not be accused of responding slowly like the IOC.

Though the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics were postponed by 12 months, it was extremely difficult for Wimbledon to move anywhere else in the tennis calendar.

Doubles star Jamie Murray said it was difficult to postpone the event later in the summer because of the diminishing daylight across the capital.

The decision also means ATP and WTA events at Queen’s, Nottingham, Birmingham and Eastbourne have also been canned.

Roger Federer, the eight-time singles winner, tweeted: “Devastated.”

Two-time winner Petra Kvitova said: “Definitely a tough one to take, with the announcement of the cancellation of Wimbledon this year.

“Not only is it a special tournament to me, but it’s a tournament that has been part of history for so long that it will leave a big hole in the calendar.

“I will miss playing on the beautiful grass and wearing my whites. But of course we know it will be back better than ever next year. And maybe we will all appreciate it even more!”

Women’s champion Simona Halep tweeted: “So sad to hear @Wimbledon won’t take place this year. Last year’s final will forever be one of the happiest days of my life! But we are going through something bigger than tennis and Wimbledon will be back!

The All England Club said in a statement: “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.

“The 134th Championships will instead be staged from 28 June to 11 July 2021.”

Chairman Ian Hewitt, said: “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.

“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.”

Chief executive Richard Lewis, added: “I would like to thank all those who love Wimbledon for their understanding of these unique and unquestionably challenging circumstances.

Read Also:Key questions as Wimbledon faces postponement or cancellation

“It is your passion for The Championships that has shaped our event over the years, and will continue to do so, and we look forward to preparing a fantastic Championships for 2021.”

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