Tennis world 'in shock' as 'fifth major' is cancelled

Tennis fans have been left in a state of shock over the decision to cancel the Indian Wells tournament in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

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.”

Dominic Thiem won't get the chance to defend his Indian Wells title after the 2020 event was cancelled. Pic: Getty

“We appreciate the proactive stance tournament organizers are taking to ensure public health and safety,” said Martin Massiello, Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer, Eisenhower Health.

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

Cancellation of the Indian Wells tournament has rocked the tennis world, with fans taking social media to express their disappointment and anger.

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.

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.