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Coronavirus Presents an Existential Threat to Some Pro Tennis Events

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In 2018, 13 ATP 250 events lost money, Oakes said. That figure is likely to soar in 2020, but Oakes said that canceling an event with sufficient notice allows it to cuts its losses significantly by allowing it reduce expenditures on infrastructure, catering and security. Prize money and player appearance fees, which are permitted at lower tour levels, are also eliminated. Tournaments could also be exempt from playing their annual fees to the tour, although that is not yet certain.

The biggest expenses that would remain are year-round staff, venue contracts and other fixed costs. Weindorfer’s three tournaments, for example, collectively spend about $600,000 annually for maintenance of the grass courts.

Timing is a major factor for all tournaments, including the BNP Paribas Open, the prestigious men’s and women’s event in Indian Wells, Calif. It was called off on the eve of qualifying at great cost with its infrastructure and most of its staff already in place. The tournament’s leadership, which includes the billionaire owner Larry Ellison, declined to comment on the economic impact, but there is still hope it can be rescheduled in 2020.

“If you are Indian Wells and Larry Ellison is your bankroll, that is a very different situation than if you are the Winston-Salem Open and you’re a 501c,” Oakes said, referring to a nonprofit organization.

Tournament directors at all levels, like business executives worldwide, are constantly doing math and searching for ways to limit damage.

Pete Holtermann, the media director of the ATP 250 event in Houston that was scheduled for April, was able to cancel the printing of the tournament program.

“In the grand scheme that was probably a small cost savings,” he said. “But you take whatever win you can get right now.”


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