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BNP Paribas Open 2021 postponed: Organizers hope to hold event later in the year

  • December 29, 2020
The Indian Wells Tennis Garden sits empty on March 25, 2020, two weeks after the 2020 BNP Paribas Open was canceled because of the coronavirus.

The 2021 BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament in Indian Wells, scheduled to be held March 8-21, has been postponed and organizers are hoping the event can be played later in the year.  

The postponement comes after the 2020 event was canceled entirely due to coronavirus concerns.

“The tournament is proactively working with the ATP and WTA Tours as well as title sponsor BNP Paribas to confirm dates later in the year to hold the event. Details will be released in the near future as plans are finalized,” according to a statement released by the tournament Tuesday morning.  “This decision was made after thorough consultation with state and local health authorities and tournament owner Larry Ellison.”

The 2020 BNP Paribas Open was the first major Coachella Valley event to be called off as  the coronavirus reached U.S. shores last winter.  The cancellation dealt an estimated $400 million loss to the valley as a whole. 

record number of hospitalized patients with coronavirus on Dec. 1 and Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a stay-at-home order for the Southern California region, which includes Imperial, Inyo, Los Angeles, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. 

The 2020 event was supposed to run March 11-22, but it was scrapped on March 8. At that point it was the biggest sporting event in the United States to have been canceled by coronavirus concerns. About 10 days later, Newsom issued a stay-at-home order that largely shut down business and commerce throughout the state for weeks.   

The Indian Wells Tennis Garden will remain empty for the second consecutive year as the 2021 BNP Paribas Open has been canceled.

Contingency plans were in the making

Unlike the abrupt cancelation of the 2020 event, organizers in Indian Wells have had months to prepare a contingency plan for the 2021 event. Though it remains unclear whether the BNP will be able to re-schedule for later next year, it’s possible that organizers preemptively called off the tournament for March in an effort to get back on the World Tour schedule later next year, before the schedule is further solidified. 

The Association of Tennis Professionals and Women’s Tennis Association have yet to release their schedules for next year. Both declined to comment on details about a potential move  on the schedule for the BNP Paribas Open.

However, The Associated Press reported Dec. 1 that according to multiple sources, Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley sent an e-mail to players and coaches that said the Australian Open would start three weeks late, on Feb. 8 in Melbourne. There has been no official announcement about the Australian Open schedule. 

What ripple effect changing the start date of the year’s first Grand Slam tournament might have is unclear.

“I can certainly appreciate the dilemma,” Woodforde said. “With one tournament pushed back, there are now other tournaments overlapping and there’s still uncertainty around the world and different protocols with different countries. Just, wow. You can imagine the negotiations internally within our sport.”

Following the BNP Paribas Open cancellation on March 8, every ATP tennis tournament was canceled or postponed through August. That stretch included The French Open, which was later played in September, and Wimbledon which was scrapped altogether. 

The only events to take place in the United States since March were the U.S. Open in August, and the Western and Southern Open, each played back-to-back at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., with players and coaches living in a “bubble” scenario near the grounds.

Long history in the desert

Before the 2020 BNP Paribas tournament was canceled, the tennis tournament had been held in the desert every year since 1976.  The tournament, owned by Ellison, is one of the most popular stops for the men and women on tour and is considered an unofficial fifth “major” tournament. The top 75 men and women in the world are expected to play in each tournament and the 2020 prize money was to exceed $17 million.

The BNP Paribas Open set an attendance record in 2019 with 475,372 attendees over the two-week period. The champions that year were Bianca Andreescu of Canada on the women’s side, and Dominic Thiem of Austria on the men’s side.

Fans gather at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden for a previous BNP Paribas Open, which has been cancelled for the second consecutive year over COVID-19 concerns in the Coachella Valley.

More:No surprise: No fans allowed at American Express golf tournament in January

Shortly after the 2020 tournament was canceled, the City of Indian Wells said it expected at least a $5.5 million loss in revenue due to the loss of the event as well as the rescheduling of the Coachella and Stagecoach music festivals, and the overall downturn in tourism due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Andrew John covers sports for The Desert Sun and the USA TODAY Network. Find him on Twitter: @Andrew_L_John. Email him at andrew.john@desertsun.com. 

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