'Absolutely unprecedented': Tennis stars fume after Indian Wells cancellation shock

Riley Morgan
Sports Reporter

Players have reacted with shock and disappointment following the extraordinary news the Indian Wells tournament will be cancelled over coronavirus concerns.

Often described as the sport's 'fifth major', Indian Wells will not go ahead in 2020 in a drastic response to the threat of the coronavirus outbreak.

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“There is too great a risk, at this time, to the public health of the Riverside County area in holding a large gathering of this size,” said Dr. David Agus, Professor of Medicine and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Southern California.

“It is not in the public interest of fans, players and neighboring areas for this tournament to proceed. We all have to join together to protect the community from the coronavirus outbreak.”

Roger Federer reacts to a point during the Championship Match of the BNP Paribas Open on March 17, 2019 at Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, CA. (Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The news was met with frustration from some players who are already at the tournament in the US.

World No.13 Diego Schwartzman and WTA stars Kirsten Flipkens and Sorana Cirstea hit out at tournament organisers after a lack of communication.

All three stars said they found out about the cancellation via social media.

While doubles specialist Jamie Murray, Andy Murray’s brother, expressed his concern for future tournaments and what it means for tennis this year.

Other players and fans were simply baffled it was cancelled after many had already made the trip to one of the biggest tennis tournaments in the year.

This included Aussie John Millman who travelled straight after his Davis Cup heroics to play in the tournament.

Organisers not taking any chances at Indian Wells

Precautions for the tournament were already being ramped up with the event set to impose a ban on ball kids handling players' towels, among other measures.

The exchange of sweaty towels between players and ball-kids between points has long been a source of contention in the sport due to hygiene reasons.

The plans followed an announcement from California Governor Gavin Newsom who declared a statewide emergency following the death of an elderly person - the first fatality in the region from the virus.

Courtmaster Jeffrey Brooker cleans the center court at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden on March 08, 2020 in Indian Wells, California. The BNP Paribas Open was cancelled by the Riverside County Public Health Department, as county officials declared a public health emergency when a case of coronavirus (COVID-19) was confirmed in the area. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

The virus has infected more than 100,000 people worldwide, killed more than 3,400 people and spread across more than 90 nations.

The Indian Wells tournament, arguably the biggest outside the four Grand Slams, was due to begin in the States on Wednesday (Thursday AEDT).

It's the first major US sports event to be cancelled because of concern over the virus.

With AAP