Event organizers made the last-minute decision to call off the annual BNP Paribas Open over the weekend due to public health concerns.
On Sunday, the tennis tournament’s officials announced that the event — which was set to begin Monday in Indian Wells, California, and continue through Sunday, March 22 — would not be held, citing precautions regarding the coronavirus outbreak. The Riverside County Public Health Department recently declared a public health emergency for Riverside County after its first confirmed case.
“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 David Agus, professor of medicine and biomedical engineering at the University of Southern California, in a press release. “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.”
Last year, the athletic event welcomed 475,372 fans to the Indian Wells Tennis Garden over the course of the two-week-long tournament.
Athletes set to compete in the 2020 BNP Paribas Open included Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams and defending men’s champ Dominic Thiem.
“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,” tournament director Tommy Haas said in a press release.
Haas added that planners will “explore options” of rescheduling the BNP Paribas Open (often referred to simply as Indian Wells) in another two-week window. Fans can request refunds or credit toward next year’s tournament.
While this is the first major sporting event to be canceled amid the coronavirus outbreak, the popular South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, was called off on Friday. SXSW was set for March 13 through March 22.
Nadal, 33, shared his reaction to the cancellation on Twitter, telling his followers to stay “well and safe.”
“You probably all heard the news. Indian Wells cancelled. We are here and still deciding what’s next,” he wrote. “So sad for all that is happening around the world with this situation. Hopefully soon solutions from the authorities. Stay all well and safe.”
Coco Gauff, the 15-year-old standout, was set to make her first appearance at the tournament. The young athlete also shared her response to the precautionary measures: “So sad to hear the news about the postponing of the @BNPPARIBASOPEN. I was so excited to make my debut in IW, but safety is always the no.1 priority. Stay safe 🙏🏾❤️”