ATP cancels restart tournament, Indy 500 attendance target halved

The Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) has been forced to cancel its planned restart tournament, the Citi Open in Washington, D.C., while Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) has revised attendance plans for the Indy 500 as it seeks to stage the largest sporting event since COVID-19 struck.

The new-look ATP Tour calendar intended to start on August 14 with Washington’s ATP 500 event, followed by the Western & Southern Open, the Cincinnati ATP Masters 1000 event, to be hosted at Flushing Meadows in New York, in the lead up to the US Open.

The tournament was intended to mark the planned resumption of the ATP Tour following the suspension of professional tennis amid COVID-19 in March. However, with continued uncertainties affecting the ability to meet key event planning deadlines, the decision has been made to cancel the event.

“It’s disappointing that due to these unprecedented times, the Citi Open will not be able to go ahead this year,” said Andrea Gaudenzi, ATP chairman. “Unfortunately for the moment there are still large factors at play which are outside of our control. We look forward to the Citi Open returning as one of our signature American events in 2021.”

Mark Ein, chairman of the Citi Open, added: “With only 23 days left until the start of the tournament, there are too many unresolved external issues, including various international travel restrictions as well as troubling health and safety trends, that have forced us to make this decision now in fairness to our players, suppliers and partners, so that they can have certainty around their planning.”

The ATP said it continues to work closely with the United States Tennis Association (USTA) on the Western & Southern Open and the US Open, which are scheduled to take place back-to-back in New York, beginning on August 20.

The ATP also continues to work on the revised 2020 calendar with a further update expected in the next fortnight on a provisional schedule of events including the final section of the season through to the ATP Finals, which were due to be held at The O2 in London in November.

The ATP and Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) last month issued revised provisional calendars that set a pathway for the resumption of the tours for the first time since the suspension of professional tennis.

WTA Tour competition is provisionally scheduled to begin the week of August 3 at the 31° Palermo Ladies Open in Italy. WTA spokeswoman Amy Binder told the Associated Press news agency that its “provisional calendar remains on course to proceed at this time.”

She added: “Our current approach to the season is to provide opportunities where possible irrespective of travel restrictions so that as many players that do have the ability and desire to travel can compete during this unique and difficult time.”

Meanwhile, based on policies and procedures put into effect by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, IMS officials have announced that attendance for the 104th Indianapolis 500 on August 23 will be approximately 25% of capacity, with face coverings mandatory for all attendees.

IMS can accommodate around 350,000 fans in the grandstands, suites and infield, and officials last month said 50% capacity would be admitted for this year’s motorsport showpiece, which has been rescheduled from its usual May date.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the world’s largest outdoor sporting venue and the original plan would have allowed for up to 175,000 fans. The revised plan has halved this to around 87,500, but is still set to make the Indy 500 the biggest sporting event since the pandemic began.

IMS yesterday (Tuesday) said ticket sales will not be permitted after July 24, further limiting the number of people who will attend. “In June, we announced the race was on and that attendance would be limited to no more than 50% of capacity,” said Mark Miles, president and CEO of IMS parent company Penske Entertainment.

“We also made clear we intended to do things differently this year. By offering credits to fans who had previously purchased tickets, encouraging those over 65 to stay at home, limiting attendance in the infield, reducing tickets in our suites and promising fans their decision to not attend would not impact their seniority or right to renew tickets for 2021, we now anticipate attendance at approximately 25% of capacity. We will welcome fans back, and we have an aggressive plan in place, which has been developed through collaboration with national, state and local health experts.”

IMS said this year’s race will include numerous safety precautions, including the reassignment of seats to provide for greater distancing; the issuance and required use of masks, distribution of hand sanitiser to all who enter; temperature checks in order to enter; and changes throughout the facility to minimise queues and gathering spots, including limiting options from concession stands to mostly pre-packaged foods.

Miles added: “Our outdoor facility is mammoth, and with attendance of about 25%, it will certainly look different this year. We want to demonstrate that even under current circumstances, people can gather with carefully planned procedures in place so we don’t have to go back to shutting down our country and our community.”

Image: Citi Open