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AFP
July 29, 2020

Golf’s Australian Open, Japan’s tennis event postponed

Sports

AFP
July 29, 2020

TOKYO: The WTA Pan Pacific Open in Japan, one of Asia’s top women’s tennis tournaments, has been scrapped for the first time because of the coronavirus, organisers said Tuesday.The cancellation of the event, which was scheduled for November and was won by Japan’s Naomi Osaka last year, follows last week’s axing of all international tennis tournaments in China for 2020.The Pan Pacific’s demise ends a continuous run for the tournament since 1984 and leaves Asia with only one Women’s Tennis Association event, October’s Korea Open, on this year’s coronavirus-wrecked schedule.

It is also another blow for sport in Japan after the Tokyo Olympics, originally due to start last week, were postponed for a year over COVID-19.

“We were trying to find ways (to hold the Pan Pacific Open), such as having no audience or limiting the number of spectators,” organisers said in a statement.

“But we reached the tough conclusion that we have to cancel the tournament given the difficulty of ensuring the safety” of all involved, they added.

The tournament had already been postponed from September to November, with organisers hoping the delay would allow them to hold the event.Last year’s Pan Pacific Open drew outsize attention in Japan thanks to hometown hero Osaka, who became the first Japanese player to win the tournament since Kimiko Date in 1995.

Last week, the ATP and WTA announced all international tennis tournaments in China, including the Shanghai Masters and WTA Finals, would be cancelled because of the virus.

The move came after China said it would not stage most international sports events for the rest of 2020, in a bid to keep the pandemic in check.Meanwhile, this year’s Australian Open Golf Championship was also postponed with officials hoping to restage the event early in 2021.

Melbourne’s Kingston Heath Golf Club had been due to host the 105th edition of the historic championship, the world’s fifth oldest professional golf tournament, in November.

But with the country battling a surge in COVID-19 cases and the game’s stars facing major tournaments moved to later in 2020, Golf Australia operations manager Simon Brookhouse said they would instead look at a “January to March 2021 window”.

The US Masters, originally scheduled for April, will now be played in Augusta from November 12-15.

Coupled with COVID-19 travel restrictions and quarantine measures, that means it would be almost impossible to assemble a world-class field in Melbourne.

“Unfortunately, it is not a simple matter of whether or not we could co-ordinate any international stars to visit,” Brookhouse said.

“The uncertainty of the quarantine requirements for any players coming from outside Australia needed to be considered,” he said, noting that the restrictions would also impact Australian players currently overseas.

“These are very challenging times for all Australians and the uncertainty the global pandemic has caused makes it very difficult to be definitive in relation to future dates at this time,” Brookhouse said.

Last year’s Australian Open in Sydney was plagued by smoke from unprecedented bushfires. It was won by Australia’s Matt Jones.

The postponement means 2020 will be the first year since World War II in which the Australian Open will not be held.