(Writes through with more events cancelled, quotes)
By Martyn Herman
LONDON, March 12 (Reuters) - The global sporting calendar is being shredded by the coronavirus pandemic, with men’s tennis shut down for six weeks, top European soccer leagues on hold and the NBA and NHL suspended until further notice.
Motor racing’s blue-riband Formula One’s season has also been stalled with the opening Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne called off, according to multiple media reports.
The first round of golf’s Players Championship at Sawgrass was continuing, however, although the PGA announced a ban on spectators at all its events through April 5.
Many fans were already in place midway through the opening day’s play at golf’s unofficial ‘fifth major’.
Thousands of miles away in ancient Olympia, the Olympic flame was lit at the start of the torch relay although, with the coronavirus crisis affecting all sports, the road to the Tokyo Olympics appears, at present, a distant one.
The men’s tennis ATP Tour announced that no tournaments would take place until after April 20 at the earliest, wiping out the prestigious Miami and Monte Carlo Opens as well as events in Houston and Marrakech and Barcelona.
“This is not a decision that was taken lightly and it represents a great loss for our tournaments, players, and fans worldwide,” ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said, adding that they had had to take “responsible action”.
Earlier this week the prestigious Indian Wells tournament was cancelled and the International Tennis Federation (ITF) has suspended all its events until April 20, including the inaugural revamped Fed Cup Finals scheduled for Budapest.
The women’s WTA Tour, reacting to the Miami Open cancellation, said additional information on upcoming events will be “announced shortly.”
The National Basketball Association (NBA) took the decision on Wednesday to suspend the season until further notice after a Utah Jazz player tested positive for the coronavirus.
“The NBA will use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic,” a statement said.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced it had temporarily suspended its season in a statement issued after a conference call with the board of governors.
Major League Baseball is also set to delay the start of the regular season and suspend spring training, ESPN reported on Thursday.
Confusion reigned in Melbourne where there were conflicting reports about the status of the Formula One race at Albert Park, before a decision to call if off was made in the small hours, two senior Formula One sources told the BBC.
Earlier, McLaren withdrew after a team member tested positive for coronavirus. Mercedes’ six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton had said it would be “shocking” if the race was to go ahead in light of the coronavirus crisis.
In soccer, domestic leagues, the Champions League and the pan-continental 2020 European Championship were all in limbo.
Spain and the Netherlands became the latest nations to suspend all matches.
Spanish giants Real Madrid put its squad into quarantine after a member of the club’s basketball team tested positive on Thursday and their Champions League, last 16 clash at Manchester City next week has been postponed.
“Given the circumstances that are coming to light this morning, referring to the quarantine established in Real Madrid and the possible cases in players from other clubs, La Liga considers it appropriate to continue to the next phase of the protocol of action against COVID-19,” Spain’s La Liga said.
Juventus’s Champions League tie against Olympique Lyonnais Lyon next week has also fallen by the wayside.
Italy’s Serie A has already stopped until at least April 3 with the country in lockdown after more than 15,000 infections and over 1,000 deaths.
Two Serie A players, Sampdoria’s Manolo Gabbiadini and Daniele Rugani of Juve, have tested positive.
England’s Premier League appears set to continue, however, with Britain’s government saying it would “not necessarily” reduce large scale gatherings despite the response to the crisis being moved up from the “contain” to the “delay” phase.
Three Leicester City players were self-isolating after showing symptoms of coronavirus.
European soccer’s governing body UEFA will hold an emergency meeting with 55 football federations on Tuesday to discuss the effect of the crisis on domestic leagues, European competitions and Euro 2020 which is due to start in June.
On Thursday Bosnia and Herzegovina asked UEFA to postpone their Euro 2020 qualifying playoff against Northern Ireland, one of several scheduled later this month.
Two of Thursday’s Europa League matches have been postponed while Manchester United will face Austrian club LASK behind closed doors.
Major League Soccer (MLS) in the United States also announced that the season was suspended until further notice.
Elsewhere, Rugby’s PRO14 season and Euroleague, Europe’s elite club basketball competition, have been suspended, while in India the government has ordered upcoming international cricket matches to be played in empty stadiums.
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Peter Graff and Ken Ferris