The BNP Paribas Open, the near-major tennis tournament set to begin this week in the California desert, won’t be played as scheduled after a case of coronavirus was confirmed in the Coachella Valley.
It’s the largest U.S. sporting event to be called off over concerns about the spread of the disease. The South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas, was cancelled Friday.
The announcement came Sunday night after many players were already in the desert practicing. Qualifying matches were to begin Monday with women’s main draw matches starting Wednesday and the men’s draw beginning Thursday.
“We’re here and still deciding what’s next,” tweeted Rafael Nadal, the world’s second-ranked player. “So sad for all that is happening around the world with this situation. Hopefully soon solutions from the authorities. Stay all well and safe.”
The Riverside County Public Health Department declared a public health emergency for the desert cities 110 miles east of Los Angeles, including Indian Wells where the ATP and WTA tours were to play the two-week tournament.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency. California has reported 114 cases of the virus.
“There is too great a risk, at this time, to the public health of the Riverside County area in holding a large gathering of this size,” Dr. David Agus, professor of medicine and biomedical engineering at the University of Southern California, said Sunday. “It is not in the public interest of fans, players and neighbouring areas for this tournament to proceed. We all have to join together to protect the community from the coronavirus outbreak.”
The event typically draws upwards of 450,000 fans. It is commonly referred to as the “fifth slam” because of its popularity among the players and its stature, ranking points and over $17 million in prize money that place it one rung below tennis’ four Grand Slam tournaments. This year’s field includel Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka and Coco Gauff. Kim Clijsters was set to continue her comeback at the event.
“So sad to hear the news about the postponing of ΓåòBNPPARIASOPEN,” Gauff tweeted. “I was so excited to make my debut in IW, but safety is always the no. 1 priority. Stay safe.”
Tournament director Tommy Haas said organizers are prepared to play the event on different dates and will explore options. However, the pro tennis calendar is tightly scheduled and the summer months in the desert are notoriously hot.
“We are very disappointed that the tournament will not take place, but the health and safety of the local community, fans, players, volunteers, sponsors, employees, vendors, and everyone involved with the event is of paramount importance,” Haas said in a statement.
Already some smaller tennis events in China and Italy — the two countries hardest hit by the virus — had been affected. The Miami Open, which follows Indian Wells later this month, could be jeopardy. The Ultra music festival in that city has already been cancelled. The year’s second Grand Slam tournament, the French Open, is set to be played in Paris in May.
The decision to postpone Indian Wells was based on the guidance of medical professionals, the Centers for Disease Control and state of California officials, tournament officials said.
“We understand the decision which has been made in the interest of public health and safety which is the top priority at this time,” WTA chairman and CEO Steve Simon said in a statement. “It is too soon to speculate about what will happen to other tournaments that follow. We will continue to closely monitor the situation. Health and safety will always come first.”
Refunds for this year’s event or a credit toward next year’s tournament are being offered.
Riverside County health officials said the individual with the first case of locally acquired coronavirus is being treated at Eisenhower Health in nearby Rancho Mirage after testing positive. The person is not being identified because of confidentiality rules.
Heath officials are following up on people who may have been exposed and an investigation is underway to find out how the person contracted the disease.
It’s the second case recorded in Riverside County. A cruise ship passenger from Riverside County was diagnosed with COVID-19 recently and is recovering at a Northern California medical facility. That person hasn’t returned home since leaving the Diamond Princess ship.
“We have always known this was a possibility,” Dr. Cameron Kaiser, Riverside County public health officer, said of the first case. “We have been planning for weeks and are prepared to take the necessary steps to protect the health of our local community.”
A charity event featuring Nadal set for Tuesday night at Indian Wells Tennis Garden has been cancelled, tournament spokesman Matt Van Tuinen said.
Nadal was set to be joined by defending BNP Paribas Open champion Dominic Thiem, Daniil Medvedev, Matteo Berrettini, Stan Wawrinka, Milos Raonic and American Taylor Fritz for the Eisenhower Cup, a $150,000 winner-take-all event.
Earlier in the week, officials had announced several measures to protect players, fans and staff at the tennis tournament.
Ball kids were going to have to wear gloves and not touch the towels of players on the court. Organized player and fan interaction was also going to be limited at the tournament. Besides ball kids, restaurant and food supply workers were going to wear gloves as well as volunteers taking tickets at entrances. Over 250 hand sanitizing stations were set up throughout the venue.
Other major sports and entertainment events in the desert are scheduled for next month.
The LPGA Tour is to play the first women’s golf major of the year, the ANA Inspiration, on April 2-5 in Rancho Mirage.
The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in nearby Indio is set for April 10-12 and April 17-19. It typically draws 250,000 people over two weekends. The Stagecoach Festival, featuring country music, is scheduled for April 24-26 at the same Indio venue.
Great Start from Kikuchi, Jays Beat Rays – Bluebird Banter
Rays 1 Blue Jays 4
Off the top, let’s just acknowledge how great Matt Chapman is with the glove. With almost anyone else at third base, this would have been a different game. In the sixth inning, it looked like Yusei Kikuchi was starting to lose it. He gave up back-to-back singles to start the inning. Then there was a bouncing ball up the third-base line, that Chapman pitched up, touched third and made an excellent throw to first for the double-play. The next batter hits almost exactly the grounder, a fair bit harder (103.1 MPH) that Chapman again grabbed (further) behind the bag and again made a great throw to first, getting the third out. In the seventh, he made a great catch on a popup hit behind third.
Kukichi had a terrific start. Going six innings, he gave up a solo homer, the two singles mentioned above, and one other single, just one walk with eight strikeouts. He was in charge all the way through. He may have had one more inning in him, but I was all for taking him out while things were good. Without Chapman, his last inning wouldn’t have been great.
On offence, two big swings did all the damage. Teoscar Hernandez crushed a no-doubter in the second inning, a two-run shot, 419 feet. And Santiago Espinal had his own two-run homer in the seventh. Not a no-doubter, just over the left-field wall, into the Jays bullpen, caught by David Phelps.
We only had 9 hits on the day. Teoscar (3) and Espinal (2) had 5 of the 9 hits.
Opener Matt Wisler pitched a scoreless first. After that, Ryan Yarbourgh pitched the bulk of the game, giving up 8 hits, 4 runs, and 1 walk without a strikeout, in 5.1 innings. I thought Kevin Cash left him in a little too long, but both teams have a lot of baseball ahead this weekend.
Vlad, Chapman and Moreno had 0 fors.
From the pen:
- Trent Thornton gave up a hit and had a strikeout in the seventh
- Phelps gave up a walk and got a strikeout in the eighth.
- Cimber got the save (pitching his third game in a row). His fourth of the season. He finished it with a strikeout.
Jays of the Day: Kikuchi (.258 WPA), Teoscar (.189) and Espinal (.171). I’m giving Chapman an honourable mention, despite his -.076 WPA, for his glove.
No one had the Suckage number. Bo (-.087), Moreno (.080, but deserves points for helping Kukichi navigate the game) and Vlad (-.070) all came close.
Tomorrow we have a day game for Canada Day, a 3:00 Eastern start. Jose Berrios 5-4, 5.86 ERA, is hoping to bounce back from a terrible start. Corey Kluber (3-4, 3.45) gets the start for the Rays.
Trial of WNBA star Brittney Griner begins in Russia – Al Jazeera English
The trial of United States professional basketball player Brittney Griner, who was arrested in Russia in February after authorities found vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage, has begun in Moscow.
Griner, a Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) all star and two-time Olympic gold medallist, arrived at a courtroom on the outskirts of the Russian capital on Friday for the trial, in which she faces up to 10 years in prison.
Arriving at Khimki City Court in handcuffs, the 31-year-old athlete wore a T-shirt showing guitar icon Jimi Hendrix and was accompanied by three people. US embassy staff were in attendance at the proceedings. Cameras were not permitted in the court.
Two witnesses were questioned by the prosecution: an airport customs official, who spoke in open court, and an unidentified witness in a closed session. according to the state news agency RIA-Novosti. The trial was then adjourned, it said, when two other witnesses did not show up, and the next session was set for July 7.
Alexander Boykov, an attorney for Griner, told reporters outside court that “I wouldn’t want to talk on the specifics of the case and on the charges and to comment on our position on it because it’s too early for it.”
US Charge d’Affaires Elizabeth Rood told reporters at the trial that Griner told her she was “keeping the faith” and that she was doing “as well as can be expected”.
The US State Department has labelled Griner “wrongfully detained” and is negotiating for her release amid tanked relations with Russia in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine. Griner’s arrest came just days before Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops into the neighbouring country on February 24.
On Friday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied the case was politically motivated.
“I can only operate with known facts, and the facts indicate that the eminent athlete was detained with illegal drugs that contained narcotic substances. There are articles in Russian legislation that provide for punishment for such crimes,” he told reporters.
“Only the court can pass a verdict.”
Griner’s detention has prompted concerns that Moscow could use the athlete to seek the release of a high-profile Russian in US custody, with Senator Tim Kaine warning the forward for the Phoenix Mercury could be used as a “negotiating chip”.
Some of Griner’s supporters have called on the US to offer such a swap.
High-profile figures across the sports world have also called for Griner’s release, with NBA players wearing T-shirts that say “We are BG” at some games.
WNBA players, who are paid considerably less than their male counterparts, are often offered lucrative contracts by the Russian Women’s Basketball Premier League to play during the US off-season.
Some have now left the Russian league, amid Griner’s detention and Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine.
US officials say Griner is one of two citizens wrongfully detained by Russia. Paul Whelan, a former US marine, has been held in Russia since 2018 after being convicted of spying. He has denied the allegation.
Russian news media have repeatedly raised speculation that she could be swapped for Russian arms trader Viktor Bout, nicknamed “the Merchant of Death,” who is serving a 25-year sentence on conviction of conspiracy to kill US citizens and providing aid to a “terrorist” organisation.
Others have suggested that she could be traded in tandem with Whelan.
After Griner’s hearing, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted: “We – and I personally – have no higher priority than bringing her and other wrongfully detained Americans, including Paul Whelan, home.
“We won’t stop working until they are reunited with their loved ones.”
Blinken, when asked Sunday on CNN whether a joint swap of Griner and Whelan for Bout was being considered, sidestepped the question.
“As a general proposition … I have got no higher priority than making sure that Americans who are being illegally detained in one way or another around the world come home,” he said. But he said he could not comment “in any detail on what we’re doing, except to say this is an absolute priority”.
Kevin Durant Has Suns As Preferred Team In Trade, Heat At No. 2 – RealGM.com
Kevin Durant appears to have the Phoenix Suns atop his wish list following his trade request from the Brooklyn Nets.
“Phoenix is the place he wants to go, I feel reasonably confident of that,” said Brian Windhorst on his podcast. “I think Miami is second. What I’m not confident over is that Phoenix is going to be able to give Brooklyn what they want. And I’m also not confident in what Brooklyn is going to prioritize.”
Tim Bontemps interjected that he expects Durant to end up with the Suns.
“If you look at these trade, there’s a nexus point between what the player wants and the team wants,” said Bontemps. “Kevin Durant would like to play for the Suns. We can all agree on that. The Phoenix Suns also have a lot of stuff the Brooklyn Nets would want. They’re not going to get Devin Booker in this trade, but they’ve got Mikal Bridges, they’ve got Deandre Ayton they can put in a sign-and-trade, and they have Cam Johnson.”
The Suns also control all of their own draft picks, which makes assembling a competitive trade offer for Durant easier.
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