The Tel Aviv Open, a small but well-regarded tournament on the men’s professional tennis tour, will not be held this year, organizers have announced.
The announcement, which came five days after Hamas attacks on civilians across Israel, was not unexpected, but a disaster for the visit. The tournament was scheduled to be held from November 5-11.
Last year’s Tel Aviv Open received rave reviews from players who enjoyed playing in front of packed stadiums in the vibrant city on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. 24-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic won the title last year in his run-up to the season-ending ATP Finals.
Following the Hamas attack, Israel declared a state of war, making the area a place tennis players and other visitors may avoid in the future.
A quick cancellation of the tournament was the only option for the organizers and the tour, who spent last week scrambling to find a venue in another country to host that week’s event – Sofia became the option. The Bulgarian capital has already hosted smaller tennis tournaments.
Both the men’s and women’s tours have become particularly adept at being unable to hold tournaments in certain cities and countries during the Covid-19 pandemic due to rising infection rates or having rules on public gatherings or visitor admissions. The tours found cities and organizers willing to buy licenses to hold a year’s worth of events.
Sofia has previous experience of hosting an ATP event, so the organizers may be willing and able to get the tournament off the ground in short order. Another minor ATP tournament was held that week in Metz, France, but the tour needed a second to give players another chance to play. Nov. 5-11 is the final week of tour play on the 2023 schedule for all but eight players who qualify for the tour finals. Rising American star Ben Shelton was determined to play in Tel Aviv.
The top players must skip games that week to prepare for the finals, which will be awarded nearly $15 million, with nearly $5 million for surviving the round-robin format without losing a game.
(Photo: Nir Keidar/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)