Tournament of Champions at Grand Central Terminal derailed by the coronavirus
By ALAN THATCHER – Squash Mad Correspondent
The coronavirus carnage continues to derail the PSA World Tour with the news that the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions will not take place at New York’s Grand Central Terminal in 2021 due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
It was confirmed this week that next year’s edition of this PSA World Tour Platinum event, promoted by John Nimick and his Event Engine team, has been cancelled.
It is one of the most iconic competitions in the world of squash, with action on the glass court taking place beneath the chandeliers in the Vanderbilt Waiting Hall. Much of its appeal has been based on the fact that thousands of New York commuters scurrying through the station stop by the court to grab their first view of squash.
The ToC has always allowed these newly-acquired fans to watch the action for free through the front wall. But the notion of allowing dozens of standing spectators to huddle together as commuters squeeze past in large numbers, to and from 42nd Street, will not pass public safety regulations with New York one of the worst-affected cities in the world.
The US has recorded the highest number of deaths, a toll which has now surpassed 262,000, with infections nationwide close to 13 million.
On Wednesday, New York saw more than 6,000 daily Covid cases for the first time since late April. Across the country, 181,490 new cases were reported on Wednesday as millions defied official advice not to travel and gather for Thanksgiving celebrations. This is expected to produce a new spike in infections in around three weeks’ time.
The Tournament of Champions first took place in the Vanderbilt Hall at Grand Central Terminal in 1995 and has been staged there annually since 1999.
The health and safety challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic mean that it is not viable to host a professional sporting event in Grand Central at this time, resulting in the difficult decision being made to cancel the 2021 edition of the tournament.
It was announced this week that the PSA, J.P. Morgan and tournament promoter Squash Engine Inc. remain fully committed to staging the Tournament of Champions in 2022, when J.P. Morgan’s renewed three-year title sponsorship of the prestigious tournament will commence.
Tournament promoter and Squash Engine President John Nimick said: “The Tournament of Champions is the oldest professional squash championship in the world and has only been interrupted by World War II and the few years that Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis led the movement to preserve and renovate Grand Central Terminal.
“We are quite disappointed for the global squash community and all of the top professional players that 2021 will mark another forced interruption.
“Grand Central Terminal is one of the most unique venues in squash as it is a major transit hub and completely public and, as such, there were a range of factors we had to consider when making this decision, with the health and safety of everyone involved at the forefront of our thinking.
“I’d like to thank J.P. Morgan for their support and commitment to the Tournament of Champions and we all look forward to working with them closely as we look to bring the Tournament of Champions back onto the PSA World Tour calendar in 2022.”
The 2020 edition in January saw Mohamed ElShorbagy defeat fellow Egyptian Tarek Momen in the men’s final, with Camille Serme of France winning the women’s final for the first time by beating Egypt’s Nour El Sherbini.
Pictures courtesy of PSA