The Wimbledon Tennis Championships have been cancelled, the All England Club said Wednesday in a decision that marked the latest disruption in global sports amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The 134th edition of The Championships, as the tournament is officially known, will be re-scheduled in June of next year, the All England Club said. The move marks the first cancellation of the historic tournament since the Second World War.
"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<" the club said in a statement.
"Following a series of detailed deliberations on all of the above, it is the Committee of Management’s view that cancellation of The Championships is the best decision in the interests of public health, and that being able to provide certainty by taking this decision now, rather than in several weeks, is important for everyone involved in tennis and The Championships," the statement added.
More than half a million people attended last year's event in Southwest London, the All England Club website indicates, with the men's final attracting a peak television audience of 9.6 million for the BBC. It was also the most-watched men's final for Walt Disney's (DIS) - Get Report ESPN since 2012.
“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," said All England chairman Ian Hewitt. "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.”
The All England decision effectively annuals the entire grass court tennis season, which typically begins just after the French Open in Paris and lasts until late July.
The French Tennis Federation has already pushed the 2020 edition of Roland Garros, a clay court tournament that forms part of the sport's four major championships -- alongside the Australian and US Opens -- to late September.
However, questions remain as to whether that postponement remains feasible now that global coronavirus infections are approaching 1 million and nearly 90% of the world's major economies are under some form of social distancing restrictions.