Guam's pro tennis tour stops delayed until August

PROS ON PAUSE: In this June 2013 file photo, Japanese professional tennis player Bumpei Sato hits a forehand during an ITF Futures Men's event on Guam. The Guam National Tennis Federation was scheduled to host two ITF Men's $25,000 events in June 2021, but with vaccination requirements for entering Guam, ITF has postponed the events until August 2021. Matt Weiss/The Guam Daily Post 

The Guam National Tennis Federation had planned to host two International Tennis Federation Grade 4 Junior events in May and back-to-back ITF World Tennis Tour Men’s $25,000 tournaments in June. But late last month, based on quarantine restrictions for players and stakeholders entering Guam, the ITF postponed the junior tournaments.

On Friday, based on Guam’s quarantine and proof-of-vaccination requirements, the ITF postponed the Men’s tournament until August.

“Last night, we had to postpone the pro circuit events, too,” said GNTF President Torgun Smith. “The administration was working with us for a bubble situation, but we just couldn’t get the details ironed out in time for the deadline to say ‘OK, we can go forward.’

“We had a deadline of May 14.”

The GNTF had made the decision to host the events based on Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero’s announcement that May 1 was the target date to reopen the economy to foreign travelers and start rebuilding the island's once-thriving tourism industry. But as coronavirus cases began to rise, she delayed the reopening until May 15, but with restrictions.

“The tournaments were approved and we were planning for the May 1 negative PCR test, same as Hawaii,” Smith said. “When that changed, everything turned upside down.”

To avoid mandatory quarantine in a government-run facility, foreign travelers entering Guam would have to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19.

With much of the world struggling with getting its citizens vaccinated and with more than half of Guam’s eligible population having been fully inoculated and the number of newly reported coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths remaining low, hosting tournaments on the island appeared to be the perfect solution for international tennis tournaments. With ample doses of the Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines on hand and a robust inoculation program long since underway, Guam emerged as a viable solution for mid-level professional tennis players to maintain and boost their world rankings.

But with several men’s players from Asia, Europe and other locales expected to register for the Guam-based tournament, many of the young professional athletes, based on age, were not able to be vaccinated and would not meet the island’s vaccination requirement upon arrival, thus being subject to mandatory quarantine.

“Tennis players entering these events are mostly 18-30,” Smith said, adding, “The U.S. and Guam are miles and miles ahead of the rest of the world.”

“For us to have a sanctioned ITF event, we have to be able to say, ‘Anybody who wants to come can come,’ with perhaps some reasonable exceptions, like a negative PCR test prior to arrival for example.”