By Sudipto Ganguly
(Reuters) - The two main tennis tours on Friday cancelled all of their remaining tournaments in China for this year, including the flagship WTA Finals, in the wake of the country's ban on international sporting events due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The General Administration of Sport, China's highest sporting body, announced two weeks ago that only trial events for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics would be held in 2020.
The ATP and WTA had held out hope of getting exemptions for their events as they tried to play as many tournaments as possible in an already heavily disrupted season but released statements conceding defeat within minutes of each other.
"We are extremely disappointed that our world-class events in China will not take place this year," WTA Chief Executive Steve Simon said in a statement.
The WTA had seven tournaments in China in its provisional calendar for the remainder of 2020, including the season-ending WTA Finals. The Tour resumes on Aug. 3 after five months with the Palermo Open in Sicily.
The ATP have cancelled the Shanghai Masters, Asia's only ATP Masters 1000 tournament, the China Open in Beijing, an ATP 500 event, as well as the Chengdu Open and Zhuhai Championships, ATP 250 events.
"It’s with a heavy heart that we announce ATP tournaments will not be played in China this year," said ATP Chairman Andrea Gaudenzi.
"We respect the Chinese government's decision to do what's best for the country in response to the unprecedented global situation."
The $14 million WTA Finals, contested by the top eight singles players and eight doubles teams in the world, moved to Shenzhen last year after being held in Singapore since 2014.
"We'll look forward to 2021 and be back," Simon told Reuters this week when asked about the prospect of the Finals being cancelled.
"We have other contingency plans in place for events ... to hopefully replace some of that business but we'll see where those discussions continue."
China has managed to reduce the number of new COVID-19 cases since the peak of the outbreak in the country in February but has been cautious about resuming sporting events.
The top-flight soccer league season will start after a five-month delay during the weekend, while China's top basketball league will allow some spectators to watch games in Shandong province from Sunday.
Shanghai is also scheduled to host an array of sporting events this year, including a round of the Formula One world championship and golf's WGC-HSBC Champions and Buick LPGA.
The Badminton World Federation has scheduled the China Open in Changzhou from Sept. 15-20 and a tournament in Fuzhou from Nov. 3-8.
(This story has been refiled to fix spelling to 'Shenzhen' in headline, ninth paragraph)
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly and Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Peter Rutherford)