coronavirus

Rugby Sevens World Series
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World Rugby Sevens Series ends early due to coronavirus pandemic

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The World Rugby Sevens Series, the top tour for the discipline that debuted at the Olympics in 2016, canceled this season’s remaining stops in September and October, prematurely ending the 2019-20 campaign due to the coronavirus pandemic.

New Zealand led the women’s and men’s standings a little more than halfway through each season and have been awarded the titles. The U.S. women finished fifth and the men seventh, one year after each team registered program-best second-place finishes.

Full standings: Men | Women

“While it is very disappointing for players, fans, organizers and everyone involved to have to cancel these events due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the health and well-being of the rugby community and wider society remains the number one priority,” World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont said in a press release. “These difficult decisions have been taken following detailed consultation with our union partners and in line with advice from the various government and public health agencies around the world, given the global nature of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.”

The last 2019-20 season stops were originally scheduled for April and May. Those events — Hong Kong, Singapore, Canada, London and Paris — were postponed to September and October due to the virus before being canceled altogether in Tuesday’s announcement.

The season ended after five of eight women’s events and six of 10 men’s events.

The 2020-21 World Series schedule has not been announced. The last two women’s seasons began in October. The men’s season traditionally begins in late November/early December.

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Grigor Dimitrov has coronavirus; Novak Djokovic tennis event canceled

Grigor Dimitrov
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Grigor Dimitrov has tested positive for COVID-19, leading to the cancellation of an exhibition event in Croatia where top-ranked Novak Djokovic was due to play in the final.

Dimitrov, ranked No. 19 and a three-time Grand Slam semifinalist, is the highest-profile current player to say he has the virus. His announcement Sunday on his Instagram page comes at the end of a week when the U.S. Open said it would go forward.

The professional tennis tours have been suspended since March and are planning to resume in August.

Goran Ivanisevic, one of Djokovic’s coaches, said the news from Dimitrov was “shocking” and that “now everyone will have to be tested.”

Dimitrov said he was making his condition public because he wanted to “make sure anyone who has been in contact with me during these past days gets tested.”

“I am so sorry for any harm I might have caused,” he wrote.

The Bulgarian featured last week in the Serbia leg of the Adria Tour exhibition event organized by Djokovic. There was criticism that there was no social distancing at the exhibition, which took place before packed stands in Belgrade, the Serbian capital. The Serbian government lifted most virus restrictions last month despite dozens of new cases being registered.

Dimitrov also played a match against Borna Coric in Croatia, at the Adriatic resort of Zadar, on Saturday in the second leg of the exhibition series. After the match, he complained about fatigue. He said in his post that he was tested in Monaco.

Organizers said Sunday the exhibition has now been canceled. Djokovic had been scheduled to play Russia’s Andrey Rublev in the final.

Besides Djokovic, other leading players participated in the events, including Dominic Thiem in Belgrade and Alexander Zverev in both tournaments.

“We are really sorry, we tried our best to respect all measures, and we did respect all measures imposed by the governments of Serbia and Croatia,” said event director Djordje Djokovic, the younger brother of Novak Djokovic.

“From our side, we did all we could but Grigor is unfortunately positive. At this moment we are organizing all medical services to check all people who have been in contact with Grigor, they will all be tested. I already contacted all players of the Adria Tour, and their families, all of the volunteers, all people involved in organization – absolutely none of them have any symptoms.”

He added: “Before he came to Zadar, Grigor was in his home country (Bulgaria), we don’t know if he got the virus there. All of the people who had close contact with him here will be tested.”

Novak Djokovic has initially struck a skeptical tone if he would play at the U.S. Open at Flushing Meadows from Aug. 31 to Sept. 13.

Some of the sport’s top names, including defending men’s champion Rafael Nadal along with top-ranked Ash Barty have expressed reservations about heading somewhere that was a hot spot for the COVID-19 outbreak. Others expressed an eagerness to return to action.

The U.S. Open normally is the fourth and final Grand Slam tournament of each season but would be the second major of 2020, following the Australian Open, which concluded in early February.

Governor Andrew Cuomo OKs U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave the go-ahead Tuesday for the U.S. Open tennis tournament to be held in his state starting in late August — but without spectators — as part of the reopening from shutdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“You can watch it on TV, and I’ll take that,” Cuomo said at his daily briefing in Albany.

Now that the U.S. Tennis Association’s proposal to hold its marquee event has been accepted — including a “bubble” setup with designated hotels, limited player entourages and a facility closed to the hundreds of thousands of people who usually attend the U.S. Open — the key question becomes: Who actually will end up competing on the blue hard courts in Flushing Meadows from Aug. 31 to Sept. 13?

Some of the sport’s top names, including defending U.S. Open men’s champion Rafael Nadal along with No. 1-ranked players Novak Djokovic and Ash Barty, have expressed reservations about heading somewhere that was a hot spot for the COVID-19 outbreak. An indoor tennis facility at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center temporarily housed hundreds of hospital beds at the height of New York’s coronavirus crisis.

Others expressed an eagerness to return to action: Both the ATP and WTA tours have been suspended since early March because of the virus. The U.S. Open normally is the fourth and final Grand Slam tournament of each season but would be the second major of 2020, following the Australian Open, which concluded in early February.

The start of the clay-court French Open was postponed from May and currently is scheduled to begin a week after the U.S. Open ends. Wimbledon was canceled altogether for the first time since World War II in 1945.

“Well done @usta for being so forward thinking in getting this done. A great achievement. Players and fans alike are thrilled with this development,” tweeted John Isner, the top U.S. man in the rankings at No. 21. “Time to get back on the courts!”

Another American, No. 195 Mitchell Krueger, quoted Isner’s comment and wrote: “I can find you about 140+ players that are most certainly not ‘thrilled’ with this development.”

That’s a reference to the USTA’s decision to eliminate qualifying rounds that normally give lower-ranked singles players a chance to earn a spot — and extra money — in the U.S. Open field. The USTA is getting rid of qualifying and instead moving the Cincinnati hard-court tournament that it owns to New York ahead of the start of the U.S. Open.

Another reduction for 2020: The men’s and women’s doubles draws for the U.S. Open each will have 32 teams instead of 64. Overall player compensation for the U.S. Open and Cincinnati tournament, which includes prize money and hotel costs and $6.6 million to compensate players who would have been in qualifying in Flushing Meadows, will be $60 million; that’s about $7 million less than in 2019.

The tours are expected to reveal the restructured 2020 tennis calendar within the week. More than 40 tournaments at the sport’s highest levels have been scrapped so far and there likely will not be any sanctioned play until early August, although various exhibition matches with no rankings points at stake have been taking place around the world in recent weeks.

“We recognize the tremendous responsibility of hosting one of the first global sporting events in these challenging times,” USTA CEO Mike Dowse said in a statement released shortly after Cuomo’s announcement, “and we will do so in the safest manner possible, mitigating all potential risks.”

With international TV contracts — including an annual average of $70 million from ESPN alone — helping offset the loss of money from ticket sales and other onsite revenue, and facing a recession that already led to the elimination of more than 100 jobs at the USTA, the association’s board decided to go forward with the U.S. Open.

“We can showcase tennis as the ideal social distancing sport,” Dowse said.

Cuomo opened Tuesday’s news conference by touting “good news on the numbers, good news on the facts” in New York, which he said has its lowest number of coronavirus-related hospitalizations since the outbreak began.

Last week, Djokovic said the restrictions that would be in place for the U.S. Open because of the virus would be “extreme.”

“Most of the players I have talked to were quite negative on whether they would go there,” Djokovic said.

He hosted exhibition matches with packed stands last week in his home country of Serbia, where the government lifted most virus restrictions last month.

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