Comment & Analysis @RazMirza
Wimbledon in the autumn could be an option if it is called off due to coronavirus pandemic, says Leif Shiras
Leif Shiras: "The magnitude of this pandemic has grown and we should take a little pride that tennis was one of the first major sports to step up and say 'we're going to pull the plug'"
Last Updated: 26/03/20 1:58pm
"In a season like this, the possibility of getting in all four majors would be something pretty special." Legendary tennis broadcaster Leif Shiras says Wimbledon could be shifted to the autumn if it is called off due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The coronavirus outbreak has decimated the sporting schedule and affected some of 2020's biggest events, including the French Open which was moved from its scheduled spring slot to September 20.
The US Open has no plans to alter its schedule from an August 25 start date, while Wimbledon organisers said they were still proceeding on the basis that the grass-court Grand Slam would start on June 29.
Both the ATP and WTA announced the tennis season was suspended until June 7, but with uncertainly as to when there will eventually be a sense of normality in the world, Shiras believes Wimbledon chiefs must start thinking about a 'plan B', should the pandemic crisis deepen further in the next couple of months.
"I hope we have Wimbledon but you have to feel a two-week event with over half-a-million visitors, over 300 players, is it still a dangerous situation post-pandemic? Maybe," Shiras told Sky Sports from his home in California.
"That's the question Wimbledon has to answer and it's going to be a difficult one to find a conclusion."
I think players would be happy to play it and in a season like this, the possibility of getting in all four majors, well that would be pretty special if we can make that happen.
Wimbledon in the autumn anyone?
With a number of tennis tournaments already squeezed in during a busy time of the year, the idea of having three Grand Slams back-to-back-to-back is something that could be a viable option.
"What's it like in the fall in London?" joked Shiras, a finalist at Queen's Club in 1984. "It's doable, I suppose. You might have cooler conditions but if it was a time in our planet's history when we could get away with it, I think Wimbledon might be worth trying at that time of the year.
"I think the public and the community would love to have that sort of entertainment outlet. I think players would be happy to play it and in a season like this, the possibility of getting in all four majors, well that would be pretty special if we can make that happen."
Shiras, who enjoyed career wins over Pete Sampras, Ivan Lendl, Johan Kriek and Kevin Curren, helping him reach a career-high No 31 in the world, also feels players will have to reconsider their schedules, while the ATP and WTA would have to think about potentially cancelling their events should Wimbledon be moved.
Players will have to wait until September to return to Roland Garros after the French Tennis Federation (FFT) announced the shift because of the pandemic.
The FFT have been under fire for making the decision without consulting with other stakeholders and Shiras was left confused by the bizarre decision-making, as it clashed directly with the exhibition tournament the Laver Cup which is championed by Roger Federer.
Was there more at play here? Possibly. But ultimately, at the end of the day, Roland Garros wanted to play tennis. Sadly, they just didn't consult with anyone else.
Leif Shiras questions Roland Garros' decision-making
"That news came out of the blue," admitted Shiras. "I think things are changing so rapidly in this situation, day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute, that your first reaction was how could they possibly do this without consulting the ATP, WTA, the Australian Open, who is a partner with the Laver Cup. I think there was a lot of doubt about the actions that the FFT took.
"As we look at things closely now, Coco Gauff said 'I'd rather play back-to-back Slams than no Slams at all'. It's a tremendous challenge for the players. I think with the season as it's going, with the enforced time off, the players will be happy to take two majors when we're lucky to have one if any in 2020.
"With the Laver Cup, you just have to feel that there was more in the decision-making by the FFT. They found a place in the calendar and they grabbed it. The fact that it bumped up directly with the Laver Cup, which is a direct competitor to the ITF's Davis Cup - well, I'm sure Federer's group is pretty upset. Was there more at play here? Possibly. But ultimately, at the end of the day, Roland Garros wanted to play tennis. Sadly, they just didn't consult with anyone else.
"They might have done more harm than good. But if I was a player and I was given a chance to play a major, then I'd be happy to take it. The money is good and the points are good."
Shiras has enjoyed a 30-year career as a tennis broadcaster and was recently inducted into the USTA Midwest Hall of Fame.