The men’s and women’s tennis tournaments at Indian Wells, set to begin this week, have been postponed after a case of coronavirus was confirmed in the Coachella Valley.
Australian world No.1 Ashleigh Barty, Serena Williams, Kim Clijsters, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal were among the high-profile players due to compete in southern California, with the event typically drawing in excess of 450,000 fans over its 10 days.
Indian Wells is an ATP Masters 1000 event on the men’s tour and the first Premier Mandatory event of the WTA season.
It is informally referred to as the fifth grand slam because of its popularity with players and fans, many of whom come from overseas.
The Riverside County Public Health Department declared a public health emergency Sunday for the desert cities east of Los Angeles, including Indian Wells where the ATP and WTA tours were to play the two-week tournament.
“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.
“We are prepared to hold the tournament on another date and will explore options.”
No further details were immediately provided on the confirmed case of the illness.
The decision to postpone was based on the guidance of medical professionals, the Centers for Disease Control and state of California officials, tournament officials said.
Earlier in the week, officials had announced several measures to protect players, fans and staff at the event.
Ball kids were going to have to wear gloves and not touch the towels of players on the court.
Organised player and fan interaction was also going to be limited at the tournament.
The LPGA Tour is scheduled to play the first women’s golf major of the year early next month in nearby Rancho Mirage.
Meanwhile, this month’s Bahrain Grand Prix, due to be staged from March 20-22, will take place behind closed doors due to the outbreak.
French health minister Olivier Veran announced on Sunday evening that all gatherings of more than 1,000 people are now prohibited in the country.
Paris Saint-Germain were earlier reported to have have had their Parc des Princes stadium disinfected in a bid to ensure Wednesday’s Champions League tie against Borussia Dortmund would not have to be played behind closed doors.
The first leg of Wolves’ Europa League round-of-16 tie against Olympiacos looks set to be played behind closed doors in Greece on Thursday.
A final decision has not yet been confirmed by UEFA but the Greek government announced on Sunday that all professional sports events for the next fortnight will be played without spectators.