The BNP Paribas Open was the first major international sporting event to cancel amid the rapid spread of the coronavirus in early March. In a statement, tournament director Tommy Haas said that organizers would consider rescheduling the event for later in the year, if possible. The Indian Wells Tennis Garden sits empty after the BNP Paribas Open was canceled because of the coronavirus, March 25, 2020.
Well, it appears there may be more than that coming to Indian Wells later this year.
Michael Dowse, the newly appointed executive director of the United States Tennis Association, said this week in an interview with Inside Tennis magazine that it’s possible the U.S. Open could be moved to Indian Wells and could take place in November.
“Nothing is off the table,” Dowse told the magazine in an April 30 interview.
Dowse added that he expects to know more in June. He said it may be possible to still play the Grand Slam event in New York in September, like always, but without fans present.
Playing in an empty arena may not be ideal, however, considering the significance of the U.S. Open — one of tennis’ four annual majors — having it happen is what matters.
But if there is a chance that shelter-in-place orders could soon be lifted in California, making it possible for people to attend sporting events again, moving the event there would seem to be a better option. The Indian Wells Tennis Garden, which is home to a 16,000-seat stadium — the second-largest tennis-specific venue in the country — would accommodate large crowds, which is a significant financial incentive.
Nevertheless, “no formal decision has been made about Indian Wells,” Dowse said. “Whatever we do, we’ll have to do it in alignment with the owners of Indian Wells, and the ATP and the WTA.”
The World Tour tennis schedule has been brought to a halt until at least July, and Roland Garros and Wimbledon has been canceled for the year. The next major event would be the U.S. Open and Dowse said, according to the report, the USTA wants to host the final major of the tennis season.
He said USTA President Patrick Galbraith spoke with President Trump and leaders of several major U.S. sports leagues this week in an effort to understand the steps that need to be taken toward re-opening sporting events throughout the country.
“All of us want the U.S. Open to happen and we are ready to help with increased (coronavirus) testing and to help players get in and out of the country,” Dowse said.
Dowse added that the three priorities of the USTA are the health and well-being of the players, staff and fans; the good of the game; and the financial impact of canceling the event.
With New York becoming the epicenter of the coronavirus in the U.S. and with California Gov. Gavin Newsom set to lift a shelter-in-place order in the coming days or weeks, moving the U.S. Open to Indian Wells sounds like a pragmatic plan.
It would be a boon for the local Coachella Valley economy, which lost roughly $400 million in tourism revenue when the BNP Paribas Open was abruptly called off on March 8, the eve of its start date due to concerns about the spread the pandemic.
Doubles player Desirae Krawczyk, who is from Rancho Mirage, along with multiple prominent professional tennis figures who live in the valley, have previously expressed skepticism about the tour continuing in 2020.
But it now appears that they could see one of the biggest events of the year come to their backyard.