Tennis: Indian Wells Suffers Setback Over Coronavirus Fears

The Indian Wells tournament has been shifted because of concerns about the spread of coronavirus.

The tournament which is one of the biggest and most prestigious outside of the Grand Slams was due to start this week.

Health officials in California said there was “too great a risk” to hold a “large gathering of this size”.

“We are prepared to hold it on another date and will explore options,” said tournament director Tommy Haas.

Many of the world’s leading players, including men’s world number two Rafael Nadal, have already arrived in California for the event.

Qualifying was set to start on Monday with the main draw matches beginning on Wednesday.

The tournament draws more than 400,000 fans each year to Indian Wells, which is 130 miles east of Los Angeles.

The decision to call off the tournament was made after one case of coronavirus was confirmed in the local Coachella Valley area. A public health emergency has been declared by medics.

“It is not in the public interest of fans, players and neighbouring areas for this tournament to proceed,” said Dr David Agus, professor of medicine and biomedical engineering at the University of Southern California.

“We all have to join together to protect the community from the coronavirus outbreak.”

Coronavirus – a fast-moving infection originating in China – has spread to more than 100 countries and claimed more than 3,800 lives.

“We are very disappointed that the tournament will not take place, but the health and safety of the local community, fans, players, volunteers, sponsors, employees, vendors, and everyone involved with the event is of paramount importance,” added Haas, the former world number two.

WTA chief executive Steve Simon told the New York Times there had been discussions to hold the event behind closed doors but that option was rejected by tournament officials.