Roger Federer has lent his voice to a poignant narrated video posted by Wimbledon, urging fans to celebrate the “countless champions” in the health service in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. The global outbreak of coronavirus has led to numerous major sporting events being cancelled this summer.
Both the 2020 Euros and Olympics have been postponed for a year while the French Open has been moved back to September.
In England though, one of the most prestigious annual sporting events for decades has been Wimbledon.
The tennis Grand Slam saw half a million spectators turn up at last year’s tournament as Federer faced off against Novak Djokovic in an epic final.
The 38-year-old is arguably Wimbledon’s greatest-ever champion, holding the record with eight men’s singles titles at London’s prestigious Grand Slam.
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His name will forever be synonymous with the green courts at SW19 with fans flocking from all over the world to see him in action.
But there will be no Federer at Wimbledon this year with the All England Club taking the decision to cancel the tournament due to the fear of coronavirus spreading.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion has often spoken about his love affair with Wimbledon and he initially admitted to being “devastated” upon hearing the event wouldn’t go ahead.
Right now, the UK is currently on lockdown with frontline workers in the NHS working around the clock and risking their lives for the aid of others.
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And Federer has featured in a touching video posted by Wimbledon urging tennis fans around the world to support those working to keep everyone safe.
“Since 1877, Wimbledon fans have embraced the Championships,” he said in the video posted by Wimbledon on Twitter.
“We have watched through multiple types of screen, at all hours of the day and night, descended from afar, even queued… my how you have queued.
“This summer, sadly, we must come together by staying apart.
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“No tents will be pitched, no records broken, no trophies engraved.
“But as we say thank you for your passion and support, we remind ourselves that countless champions will be crowned.
“As frontline workers across the globe compete for us, we cheer for them.
“For now, with play suspended, we are united in hope that tomorrow will be better than today.”
Andy Murray and his wife Kim lay down the 100 volley challenge – will Roger Federer and his wife Mirka be next?
Murray has been active on social media with his latest tweet asking all players and fans to take up the 100 volley partner challenge.
He said: “A challenge to all tennis players and fans… The 100 volley challenge. There was no bickering during the filming of the video, although I think the last volley was aimed at my head… I can’t be the only one that wants to see Rog and Mirka hitting a few balls together..”
Tennis Australia is making contingencies in case the 2021 Australian Open can't go ahead as normal in Melbourne in January.
CEO Craig Tiley said they were preparing for the possibility that international players will have to undergo quarantine, or for the tournament to go ahead without fans in the stadiums.
Novak Djokovic won this year’s men’s title at the Australian Open. Planning for a potentially pandemic-hit 2021 edition is underway.Credit:Getty Images
“Another example is if mass gatherings are still not allowed or severely restricted next year, we are looking at the possibility of running an event for broadcast. These are just two of many scenarios we have to examine."
Meanwhile, the men's and women's professional tennis tours are examining contingency plans for post-coronavirus rescheduling, including the possibility of pushing back the end of the 2020 season.
The heads of the WTA and ATP said on Monday their groups are working together on ways to assemble a new calendar.
Under consideration are moving postponed tournaments into weeks that already have events and making the season longer than it already is by playing past the tours' originally slated November finishes.
All of pro tennis is suspended at least until July 13 because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
That is the day after Wimbledon was supposed to end; the All England Club announced last week it was cancelling the oldest grand slam tournament for the first time since it was shelved from 1940-45 during World War II.
The tours have been periodically telling tournaments, players and the public how long the suspension will last. Another update is expected by the middle of May.
ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said the men's tour ideally would like to finish the season on time in November if competition can resume in July.
"Nothing is ruled out at this stage," he said.
Tennis finds itself in a somewhat unique position because of the international travel required of athletes from week to week, the players’ status as independent contractors and the lack of one overarching governing body.
While superstars such as Serena Williams, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have earned millions upon millions over the years – more from sponsorships than prizemoney – lower-ranked players depend on playing regularly in tournaments for their income.
The combined ATP-WTA Madrid Open, which was to be played May 1-10, announced on Monday it will have a video game version of the tournament on April 27-30, with players swinging controllers instead of rackets.
About $325,000 in prize money will go to the winners, who then can decide what portion of that will be donated to tennis players who need financial help.
Another $55,000 will be used to reduce the social impact of the pandemic.
The LTA has announced a multi-million-pound package of additional funding and measures to support those involved in tennis in Britain impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The comprehensive package, which has been developed by the LTA in consultation with Tennis Scotland and Tennis Wales, will make additional support available to tennis venues, coaches, officials and players to the value of up to approximately £20m.
The goal is to ensure that that tennis in Britain emerges from this period in a strong and healthy position and that the sport is able to resume its role in keeping the nation active as soon as conditions allow.
The funding and support will aid those who have been most severely affected from a financial perspective by the coronavirus pandemic.
LTA Support will include* the following measures…
The new measures add to an existing programme of investment and support that the LTA has continued to make available both during and after the pandemic as part of its strategy to grow tennis and open it up to many more people.
“The first priority at this time is the health and wellbeing of everybody, and our thoughts are with anyone who has been affected by the coronavirus,” said LTA chief executive Scott Lloyd said in a statement.
“Our sport is far from exempt from its impact, and this pandemic has the potential to put the continued future growth of tennis at significant risk.
We know that many involved in tennis in Britain are concerned about their futures and are facing significant challenges, and so our primary objective in announcing these unprecedented measures is to ensure clubs and venues remain viable and coaches and officials are not lost to the sport.
Scott Lloyd – LTA Chief Executive
“We hope that the combination of this new package and the continuation of our existing support will help ensure they are all able to operate post COVID-19.”
The LTA is committing to make significant savings to help fund the new package, as well as reallocating some funds from its reserves.
The organisation has also announced furloughing measures to its workforce whilst the current rules around social distancing and venue closures make it increasingly difficult for the LTA to deliver normal levels of activity.
Like all tennis players right now, Harriet Dart is in the same boat. No competitive matches means the Brit has had to adapt her hectic lifestyle into a daily routine from home. She talks exclusively to Sky Sports’ Raz Mirza about her day…
The 23-year-old has been sticking to the guidelines and staying at home just like the rest of us, trying to keep a day-to-day routine in place, keeping fit and healthy with the hope that the tennis season will resume at some point in the future.
Dart was like the rest of us when she heard the news that the sport was suspended and is not due to resume until July 13 at the earliest after the Wimbledon Championships was cancelled on Wednesday.
Going to miss playing on these beautiful courts and putting on my pearly whites. See you in 2021 🇬🇧 🎾 @Wimbledon pic.twitter.com/GS9hQolD1J
The inevitability of the announcement was not a major surprise to Dart, who made a splash at last year’s Wimbledon where she won a match in front of the Duchess of Cambridge before bowing out to world No 1 Ashleigh Barty in the third round.
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“Life is definitely a bit strange but everyone around the world is in the same situation and there’s much more important things that are happening that clearly need to take precedence. It’s really sad with what’s going on so I’m just trying to stick to government guidelines and stay at home, do my fitness, do as much as I can do really,” Dart said.
“Of course it’s disappointing that Wimbledon has been cancelled but I totally understand the decision that was made. Safety definitely comes first because there are so many people involved in making the tournament happen and that’s the most important thing.”
Made myself a home gym in my garage 🏋️♀️ – I stay motivated by pumping out some great music. Big @stormzy fan. Let me know how you all stay motivated and what tunes you listen to 👍 #StayHomeSaveLives #WattBike #Motivation #FitnessWorkout #FitnessWomen #Stormzy #Music
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With no tennis, Dart has structured a daily plan which she tries to adhere to in a very uncertain time for many players, including herself. The LTA have loaned her equipment while she receives ongoing support from their Sports Science team.
I’m just trying to be optimistic and take each day as it comes. It’s important to keep as much of a regular routine as possible.
“I’ve been trying really hard to stay in my daily routine. Obviously it’s a little bit different because I’m not playing tennis so I usually get up around 7.30 in the morning, get dressed, eat breakfast and do everything as normal,” Dart said. “I’m a creature of habit so I will usually just have a big bowl of porridge with loads of fruit and some boiled eggs. It’s not very interesting but it gets the job done.
“I have a little garage where I’ve set up a little mini-gym. I’ve been fortunate enough that the LTA support me and they have been with other players by providing a lot of equipment which has been really essential during this time. It’s very different training what I’m doing now to what I normally would be doing on a regular basis.
“Given the equipment that I do have, we’re able to mimic a lot of regular sessions and try and maximise this period of time.
“I get on the Wattbike, then do some shoulder rehab to make sure it hasn’t completely weakened just because tennis is so shoulder-driven. Then I’d eat some lunch, which has been trying to eat up everything that I have in the house, before doing a lower body leg circuit. I also do a bit of stretching, and a bit of yoga.
“Again, the LTA have been good in the fact that they’ve been proving video consultations, virtual training sessions. I did a pilates virtual class where there was at least six to eight other players taking part. It’s good to experience some different things.
“I’m just trying to be optimistic and take each day as it comes. It’s important to keep as much of a regular routine as possible.”
HOME WORKOUT – LEG BURNER 💪🏼🔥 BODYWEIGHT ONLY – NO EQUIPMENT NEEDED ‼️ 20 x SQUATS 40 x FORWARD LUNGES (20 EACH SIDE) 40 x LATERAL LUNGE (20 EACH SIDE) 20 x SPLIT LUNGE JUMPS 10 x SQUAT JUMPS COMPLETE SET WITH NO REST REST IN-BETWEEN SETS: 30 SECONDS REPEAT 3 TIMES TOTAL TAG YOUR TRAINING BUDDY BELOW AND TRY THIS WORKOUT 👇 #Isolation #StayHomeStaySafe #FitnessWorkout #HomeWorkout #StayingPositive #FitnessMotivation @asicstennis @asicseurope @yonex_uk @wta @lta
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Dart has joined the social media revolution of posting exercise tips to her accounts. The world No 146 says she does it to help motivate people.
“I think social media is a great tool that you can utilise, especially with a lot of us who have a good following,” she said. “I think it’s great that we can help people stay active and stay really positive. If I can motivate people to work out and do some sort of activity, to me, that’s a real positive.”
Dart would end the day around 5 o’clock before cooking her dinner. She has become somewhat of a culinary expert in recent months with a “healthy” crumble being her speciality.
“I’m in an intense battle of UNO with my boyfriend at the moment,” Dart joked. “TikTok is another craze although I was a bit late to the party, but it’s a lot of fun. It’s gone pretty viral.”
The British No 3 has ambitions of breaking into the Top 100 in 2021, which has been a long-time goal of hers.
Novak Djokovic will be "the big loser” from the cancellation of Wimbledon, according to Mats Wilander.
But injured stars like Andy Murray will benefit from the tennis shutdown because “everyone will start from zero”.
World No.1 Djokovic has won all 18 matches so far this year while lifting the ATP Cup, the Australian Open and the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
The Serb has now won 17 Grand Slam titles – including the last two Wimbledons.
And his hot form made him a contender to win the calendar Grand Slam and equal Roger Federer's male record of 20 Major titles this year.
But now Wimbledon is off and the US Open in New York is also in serious doubt.
“The big loser is Djokovic,” seven-time Grand Slam champion Wilander told L'Equipe.
“He has not yet lost a match this year and the virus has stopped his momentum.
"It is also a loss of time for all the guys who are pushing behind the Big Three.
"Of course, they have progressed a lot in training but guys like Denis Shapovalov, Stefanos Tsitsipas or Felix Auger-Aliassime will grow up really playing matches.
"When you are young, training doesn't really interest you. You don't want to spend four hours doing backhands. You want to play matches.
“I think the only players who can take positives out of the situation are those who came back injured from Australia. When play begins again, everyone will start from zero. But it is terrible not knowing when it will start.
“The hardest thing is to maintain motivation. Because you don't know why you are training. It is like watching the Wimbledon semi-final between John Isner and Kevin Anderson: you don't know when it is going to end!”
Murray, who turns 33 next month, has not played since the Davis Cup in November and missed a return to the Australian Open because of a pelvic strain.
Like Roger Federer, he immediately stated that he planned to return to the Championships in 2021.
Martina Navratilova claimed the layoff will especially affect players at the start and end of their careers.
The full financial impact of the cancellation of Wimbledon will take “months” to confirm, the All England Club's chief executive has revealed.
The Championships were called off for the first time since the Second World War yesterday because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Pandemic insurance in place since SARS in 2003 will cover the event which had a £254m turnover in the last accounts in 2018 and annually attracts around 500,000 fans.
Wimbledon profits then saw £40.8m given to the Lawn Tennis Association to support grasscourt tournaments and player performance.
“A lot of the hard work now starts,” said Lewis. “Of course we are fortunate to have insurance – it helps – but it doesn't serve all the problems.
"There are a lot of details to work through. The insurance will help protect the surplus to an extent, I would say to a large extent. The details and the figure probably won't be known for months. There is a recognition in the insurance policy that the surplus is part of our business."
The All England Club wants to set up a “hardship fund” for lower ranked players who will miss out on earnings this summer. First-round losers banked £45,000 last year in a total prize fund of £38m.
“The problem with giving any kind of steer as to what the sport might be able to do is we don’t know how long this is going to go on for or the extent of the problem,” Lewis added.
A “heartbroken” British No 1 Johanna Konta says that organisers made the “right decision” to cancel Wimbledon due to the coronavirus crisis.
The All England Club cancelled the tournament on Wednesday, the first time since World War II that the oldest Grand Slam tennis tournament will not be played.
Wimbledon was scheduled to take place from June 29 to July 12, but the final decision was made at an emergency board meeting, with the inevitable outcome reached.
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Here’s to seeing you in 2021 @Wimbledon 💪🎾 pic.twitter.com/hxBZfHrAHz
Konta, who reached the semi-finals in 2017, said she had hoped the two-week long grass-court event would go ahead, but realised the decision to cancel it was the right call in the end.
“It’s a combination of expecting it and being prepared for it, but at the same time you have that little bit of hope that you hold out for and that was definitely still the case,” Konta told Sky Sports’ Hannah Wilkes.
“I was still hopeful that maybe it could happen but it’s obviously the right decision. Everybody’s health and safety is the priority at the moment. It’s all the fans and the people that work at the Championships, to the players, it’s important to make sure everybody stays safe.
“It’s heartbreaking as a tennis player but it makes sense as a normal person, I think.”
Working’ for my dinner but keeping it groovy 🚴♀️🚴♀️🚴♀️
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Konta admits suffering from a degree of anxiety with no tennis to focus on and being confined to her apartment during the pandemic.
She said: “My days are going to be very similar until we get the all clear and I can actually go back and train on court. For now I’m in the fortunate position that I’ve got some equipment here in my living room currently taking up the majority of the space, but at least I’ve got something to train with and to try and get some sessions in.
“Equally I’m fortunate to have a fitness trainer who I’m very close to and has been a part of my team for years who I’m in contact with and a physio as well. We try and make the most of this situation. I’m certainly one of the more fortunate ones who can be able to stay active at home.”
World No 14 Konta suffered from a knee injury which curtailed the latter stages of 2019 before making a decent start to this year by reaching the semi-finals of the Monterrey Open in Mexico.
“I was hoping to continue to build on that [semi-final] performance where I had four matches under my belt and continue to build that tolerance in my knee and help my body being able to withstand back-to-back matches,” added the 28-year-old.
“It’s something I’m unable to do now, but nobody does and outside of the tennis world there are a lot more people in difficult and tough situations so I’m not keen on feeling too sorry for myself because I’ve got a lot to be grateful for.
It is a sign of these miserable times that the most startling thing about the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club’s decision to cancel the 2020 Wimbledon Championships was that it had taken them this long. The first cancellation of the tournament since World War II was rubber-stamped at an emergency board meeting on Wednesday, the centrepiece of the British sporting summer the latest event to fall victim to the global coronavirus pandemic.
There are numerous practical reasons for the decision. There is little clarity on when the UK’s lockdown restrictions will ease, with similar uncertainty over whether players will be able to travel from around the world to attend. And then there are the courts. Wimbledon is the only Grand Slam to take place on a living surface: verdant lawns of perennial ryegrass cut to precisely 8 millimetres in length which require 15 months of fastidious preparation. Shifting the tournament back a few weeks would not only make these courts dewy and dangerous, it would also prevent them from being in pristine condition for the following summer.
Every year there is a demandingly small window in which to stage the Championships and, for 2020, that window has already closed.
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Yet such pragmatic concerns pale in comparison to the far more significant moral issue at hand. “The single most important consideration is one of public health, and we are determined to act responsibly through the decisions we make,” Richard Lewis, the chief executive of the AELTC, has remarked. The summer will not be an ideal time for thousands of fans to congregate together, even if the spread of the virus has abated. Not even Wimbledon’s imposing green gates can keep the outside world from closing in.
Another group will appreciate the AELTC’s decision: the players, who have thus far been badly let down by their sport’s combined response to the crisis. And while nobody benefits from the enforced absence of the tour’s most prestigious tournament – not least 38-year-olds Roger Federer and Serena Williams, who are battling not only age but younger rivals – players will at least now be spared from looking at what remains of the tennis calendar with even greater trepidation.
The sport’s initial reaction was sensible, with the ATP and Women’s Tennis Association making the joint decision to suspend professional tennis until early June. But not every Grand Slam has acted with the AELTC’s rationality. Last month, the Fédération Française de Tennis elected to move the French Open to the end of September without bothering to consult anybody first. “Such a decision should not have been made unilaterally,” the US Open was quick to sniff in a retaliatory press statement.
There are two big problems with such a decision. First, it pits the French Open against the Laver Cup, Federer’s pet project and tennis’s answer to the Ryder Cup. Second, it would mean two Slams on two different surfaces being played within a week, given that the hypothetical US Open is set to end on September 13. And while it would admittedly be perversely fascinating to watch a grim-faced Novak Djokovic straining every sinew to win two Grand Slams back-to-back, it doesn’t seem even remotely feasible.
Part of the problem is the rabble of competing interests with different opinions on how tennis should wade through the current crisis. There is the International Tennis Federation, the ATP and the WTA, as well as the separate entities that run the four Grand Slams: Tennis Australia, the FTF, the AELTC and the United States Tennis Association. And that’s without even getting into other significant groups, such as the influential player committees, sponsors, television partners and so on. The sport is resistant to change with good reason.
The confusion and squabbling naturally hurts the players, who are the people that matter the most in all this. It is understood that Djokovic has already tentatively floated the idea of cancelling the season while on a conference call with other players, while those who languish lower down the rankings – who do not qualify automatically for Grand Slams and who make their living from smaller events that are now likely to be scratched – are in an even more precarious position.
Like so many other sports, tennis finds itself facing an existential threat. Players and tournaments alike are braced for significant losses that could prevent them from returning when the pandemic is over. And while the AELTC’s decision does little to help these problems, it does at least provide some clarity for what remains of the rest of the season. More clear-headed thinking is urgently required.