US WTA April clay court event will be played without fans

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When top WTA players, like 2019 winner Madison Keys, return to the clay courts of Charleston, South Carolina, in April, there will be no spectators allowed, organizers announced Thursday

Spectators will not be allowed at the WTA clay court tournament set to be played in April at Charleston, South Carolina, because of Covid-19 safety considerations, organizers announced Thursday.

Bob Moran, tournament director for the WTA Volvo Car Open, said hopes for allowing a limited number of fans were scuttled by the ongoing pandemic.

"While we had remained optimistic about our intentions for the spring, we have been closely monitoring Covid-19 and watching the case count continue to rise in South Carolina," he said in a statement.

"After much deliberation, our team has made the difficult but necessary decision to host the 2021 Volvo Car Open without fans. We delayed this decision as long as we possibly could in hopes that the end result may be different."

Moran said construction of event facilities for the April 5-11 tournament would need to start this week to be ready for meeting Covid-19 health and safety regulations for spectators.

"Unfortunately, with the ongoing high positivity numbers and the potential of unknown restrictions on travel to the US, we have concluded that the creation of a made-for-TV tournament is the best possible outcome," Moran said.

"Our commitment now is to produce an event that will provide players an opportunity to compete and earn a living... We are confident that the health and safety protocols we developed in partnership with the WTA and the Medical University of South Carolina will allow us to create a safe atmosphere for players, essential staff and operational partners."

American Madison Keys won the 2019 tournament. Last year's tourney was wiped out by the pandemic but a 16-woman exhibition team event was staged in June at the same facility.