PALM SPRINGS, Calif. — As night turned to morning and the world awoke to the news announced Sunday night that the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells was canceled, the tennis world started weighing in.
Desert resident and tennis Hall of Famer Rosie Casals was definitely taken aback when she heard the news late Sunday.
“It’s very difficult to wrap your head around, I kind of feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone,” Casals said Monday morning. “Something like this has never happened except maybe in time of war or an act of nature, but this is devastating not just for me but for the desert communities and hotels and restaurants and everything.”
Casals, a 12-time doubles Grand Slam champion and one of the pioneers of women’s tennis, is also affected personally as she hosts a charity event on the middle Sunday of the BNP Paribas Open. This year they were going to honor Billie Jean King and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Original 9 women who changed the face of women’s tennis. It’s the biggest fundraiser of the year for Casals and her Love and Love Tennis Foundation which helps youth tennis.
That event, which raised more than $75,000 last year, will not happen this year.
“Certainly, the decision has huge ripple effects,” Casals said. “I’m lucky many people have already reached out to me very graciously to say they’re still going to donate. I’m just sorry we don’t get to have the event and celebrate all the great people. It’s always such a fun event.”
As far as the coronavirus threat, Casals said she doesn’t want to downplay, but she’s not going to stay inside either.
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“I get that it’s serious, but I’m not going to stop living my life,” she said. “If I have to fly somewhere, I’m going. I don’t want to live in fear of coming into contact with people. Sure you can be cautious, but I can’t stop living my life.”
Other tennis dignitaries have begun weighing in on social media:
Rafael Nadal tweeted late Sunday night: “You probably all heard the news. Indian Wells cancelled. We are here and still deciding what’s next. 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 tweeted: “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.”
Sloane Stephens tweeted: “So sad about this (Loudly crying face emoji) but as they said priority has to be everyone’s health and safety!! Praying this gets better (prayer hands emoji).
Pro player Kirsten Flipkens tweeted: “Curious what is going to happen with the 125K in Guadalajara and @MiamiOpen. Hope @WTA doesnt keep players around for the next weeks to cancel again 1 day before tournament starts. Hope we get clear answers on it soon. Health comes first. Always.”
Former tennis player and commentator Pam Shriver tweeted: “It’s obvious that in short few months of the new deadly virus that large public events spreads the virus at a high rate. Elderly populations are at highest risk and Coachella Valley is residence to many most vulnerable to this virus. It’s a brave tough but correct decision. (prayer hands emoji, broken heart emoji).”
Tennis player Caty McNally tweeted: “Was really looking forward to playing in @BNPPARIBASOPEN but health and safety must come first. see y’all soon. (wave emoji, blue heart emoji, sad face emoji).”
Brad Gilbert, tennis commentator: “Still numb about no tennis in the desert and what will happen with a lot of other events around the world the next few weeks, hopefully some genius scientists are fighting this out ASAP.”
Canadian tennis player Denis Shapovalov: “I’m shook (stunned face emoji).”
The Miami Open tweeted a release that said the 2020 Miami Open is moving forward as scheduled, March 23-April 5.
Up next in tennis
The next event for the ATP Tour and WTA following Indian Wells is the equally prestigious Miami Open. That tournament released a statement Monday, stating that as of now, the tournament will go on as planned.
The ATP Tour released a statement Monday: “While we regret that the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells will not take place, the ATP Tour calendar beyond Indian Wells remains status quo. We continue to monitor the situation daily, working closely with our player and tournament members with the understanding that direction must be taken from local public health authorities. We are committed to exploring all options for the operation of upcoming tournaments as the health and safety of our players and all other stakeholders remain our top priority.”
Shad Powers is a sports columnist for The Desert Sun. Reach him at email@example.com.