For the last several months, Don de Wilde has been working toward getting the annual St. Croix Open tennis tournament up and running.
But on the eve of its opening matches, the tournament is now on hold.
Tournament organizers announced late Wednesday night that this year’s St. Croix Open has been postponed due to recent changes in the U.S. Virgin Islands government’s protocols for battling the COVID-19 pandemic.
The tournament has been rescheduled for Jan. 14-24, 2021, after a meeting of the board of directors of the Tennis Club of St. Croix, the tournament’s organizer.
According to de Wilde, the tournament director and head pro at the Tennis Club of St. Croix, the order to not hold this year’s Open on its planned dates came in a letter from V.I. Health Department Commissioner Justa Encarnacion.
The letter came Tuesday, a day after Dr. Lindsy Wagner, a member of the Tennis Club of St. Croix’s board of directors, met with both Encarnacion and Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. to discuss the tournament and its plans for dealing with the coronavirus.
“We decided it would be a good idea for one of our board members at the club checked in with the governor and the Department of Health, just to let them know what we were doing, and see if we needed any kind of permits,” DeWilde said in a telephone interview Thursday.
In the letter to Wagner, Encarnacion wrote:
“The Governor has established a 2-week moratorium on sports activities and social gatherings that began on Monday, [November] 30, 2020. The moratorium was put in place to reduce exposure to our community members following social gatherings during the Thanksgiving celebrations. It was put in place to secure the health of our residents and visitors alike.
“Even though tennis is recognized as a low-risk sport, the risk of exposure and transmission of COVID-19 increases during tournaments, a higher number of players and even more when spectator involvement is added. As such we regret to inform you that the activity cannot be approved at this time.
“Please plan to reschedule, at which time we will review and make recommendations regarding the protocols that will be in place. We will also assist in any way that we [can] throughout the event. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation in this matter.”
According to de Wilde, this year’s tournament had nearly 70 entries — “it’s a little bit better than we’ve had in the past couple years,” — taking part in men’s and women’s singles and doubles, and mixed doubles.
The tournament was to have begun Thursday, with matches held nearly daily over the following week.
“I understand this is a frustrating time for everyone, but I was a little surprised they didn’t allow us to do it, because it’s a non-contact sport,” de Wilde said.
“But it’s our own fault, because we thought it wasn’t going to be a problem. … It’s our own fault for not doing all that sooner.”