Wimbledon chiefs on Wednesday cancelled the Grand Slam tournament for the first time since World War II as the coronavirus wreaks further havoc on the global sporting calendar.
The cancellation of the only grasscourt Grand Slam tournament leaves the tennis season in disarray.
The decision also prompted the ATP and WTA to cancel the grasscourt swing in the build-up to Wimbledon meaning the tennis season will not now recommence until July 13 at the earliest.
The tournament was scheduled to be held between 29 June and 12 July.
Wimbledon is the latest major summer sporting event to be affected by the virus, with Euro 2020 and the Tokyo Olympics postponed for 12 months.
All England Club chairman Ian Hewitt said the decision had not been taken lightly.
He said in the statement:
“This is a decision that we have not taken lightly, and we have done so with the highest regard for public health and the well-being 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 decision was expected over the past few days. A postponement was unlikely because the tournament timing is crucial due to grass condition and weather in England.
The decision to scrap the tournament was widely expected, with the world struggling to contain the spread of COVID-19, which has infected more than 840,000 people worldwide and killed over 40,000.
It also prompted the ATP and WTA to cancel the grasscourt swing in the build-up to Wimbledon, meaning the tennis season will not now recommence until July 13 at the earliest.
Organisers had earlier ruled out playing the Grand Slam behind closed doors and postponing the event would have also created its own problems for the Major which is considered the most prestigious in the tennis world.
Earlier, the French Tennis Federation provoked widespread anger with its unilateral decision to move the French Open from its original May 24 start date to begin on September 20.
That puts the start only one week after the planned date of the US Open men’s final. The American Major organisers have issued a statement to say that the tournament will go ahead per schedule as of now.
(With AFP inputs)