Rain threw the initial punches but it was COVID-19 that knocked out the International Tennis Federation Georgia Open Wheelchair championships Thursday.

The tournament was cancelled  before a second round could begin. The Intgernational Tennis Federation scrapped all other scheduled events through the third week of April.

The decision by the ITF, based in London, is the latest from the sports world to try to contain the spread of the virus.

A statement posted on the ITF web page reads, "This will be reviewed on a weekly basis but no ITF events will take place until at least the week of Monday 20 April. We will work closely with our partners and other stakeholders ..."

Shelby Baron and Lauren Haneke-Hopps, University of Alabama wheelchair team players, were literally the last players to leave the Rome tennis center Thursday. Baron expressed disappointment at the cancellation but said she fully understood the gravity of the health ramifications.

The Rome tournament basically got one round in Wednesday night after a long delay to dry the courts. But it was unable to even get started Thursday because of wet courts, prior to getting the cancellation notice.

"It's really a tough time," Baron said.

She is hoping to earn enough points to make the U.S. Paralympic team this year. 

"We're in the middle of paralympic qualifying and this was the first high-level tournament of the year where we could earn points and prize money," she said, then quickly added, "We don't even know if we're going to have an Olympics. This is putting everybody in a panic health-wise and tournament-wise."

Baron said she felt particularly bad about the cancellation for players who received wild card entries to the Rome event after a tournament in Malaysia was cancelled.

"They flew all the way here and then this cancels," Baron said.

Baron said the NCAA was expecting to hold its first really big national wheelchair championships later this spring with as many as 12 teams slated to complete. Now, she's not sure if that will happen.

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