It will be for the first time since 1999 that both Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal will be absent in a grand slam. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: The Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) have expressed their “disappointment” after the cancellation of the Mutua Madrid Open due to health and safety concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

The clay court tournament was originally due to take place in May but was postponed and re-scheduled for September before being cancelled due to the continuing health situation in Spain.

“We have given our all to stage the tournament,” Tournament Director Feliciano Lopez said in a statement.

“After the first cancellation in May, we got to work on the September date with the hope of being able to enjoy first-class tennis in the Caja Mágica during this year, which has been so hard for everyone. However, the continued instability is still too great to hold a tournament like this in complete safety,” he added.

Following a recent spike in coronavirus cases, Madrid announced various new measures to control the spread of the virus, including a directive that social gatherings are to be reduced to ten people, both in public and at private meetings. The new legislation rendered it impossible to stage the event, leading to the tournament’s cancellation.

Three-time champion world No.1 Novak Djokovic will be the favourite in the US Open in the abence of Federer and Nadal. Image Credit: AP

“We share in the disappointment that the Mutua Madrid Open will not be able to take place this year,” ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi, said.

“The circumstances concerning COVID-19 are continually evolving and we continue to take guidance from local authorities in our decision-making. I would like to thank the Mutua Madrid Open tournament organisers for their efforts to run this year’s event, which included the rescheduling of their dates from May to September, and we look forward to the event’s successful return in 2021,” he added.

Steve Simon, WTA chairman, was also disappointed with the cancellation. “We are disappointed the Mutua Madrid Open will not be held this year but we are proud of the dedication set forth by Feliciano and the entire tournament team, who have worked tirelessly to consider and facilitate all possible alternatives in making the tournament happen this year,” he noted.

“We know how beloved this combined men’s and women’s event is for fans, especially with the anticipation of the Tour’s return to play, but we remain vigilant to ensure health and safety remains our top priority for all,” he added.

Complicated situation

Among the players who were due to appear in Madrid was Rafael Nadal, who has won the men’s singles five times.

In a series of tweets, the world number two announced that he had taken the difficult decision not to play in the US Open that is scheduled to be held in New York from August 31 to September 13. “After many thoughts I have decided not to play this year’s US Open,” Nadal said.

“The situation is very complicated worldwide, the COVID-19 cases are increasing and it looks like we still don’t have control of it. We know that the reduced tennis calendar is barbaric this year after four months stopped with no play, and I understand and thank everyone for the efforts they are putting in to make it happen,” he added.

This is the first time since 1999 that the US Open will not feature both Roger Federer and Nadal. Leading the field will be three-time champion Djokovic along with a younger generation of players like Dominic Thiem, Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev – all with their eyes on a Grand Slam breakthrough.

Djokovic, who won the US Open in 2011, 2015 and 2018, will be attempting to win an 18th Grand Slam title. The Serb was on an unbeaten 18-match winning streak to start 2020 before the ATP Tour was suspended in March. That unbeaten run included his eighth title at the Australian Open and his contribution in guiding Serbia to victory at the inaugural ATP Cup.