The French Tennis Federation (FFT) has come under fire for a lack of communication after making an unexpected announcement regarding the next grand slam tournament.
On Tuesday a statement was released confirming that the French Open has been delayed due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Which has brought the entire tennis season to a halt. Astonishingly they now intend to hold the tournament between September 20 – October 4, which is just seven days after the conclusion of the US Open. The announcement has caught many off guard with neither the ATP, WTA or ITF yet to publish an official response.
“In order to ensure the health and safety of everyone involved in organising the tournament, the French Tennis Federation has made the decision to hold the 2020 edition of Roland-Garros from 20th September to 4th October 2020.” The FFT said in a statement.
“Though nobody is able to predict what the situation will be on 18th May, the current confinement measures have made it impossible for us to continue with our preparations and, as a result, we are unable to hold the tournament on the dates originally planned.”
Whilst it was always highly likely that the date for Roland Garros would be changed due to the ongoing crisis, the way in how it was done has once again highlighted serious communication issues in the sports. Many players have taken to social media to express their frustration that they were not consulted about the decision until it was made public.
“Strong Move by French Open/FFT to move to end of Sept. I thought the powers that be in tennis were supposed to be all about working together these days?” Former world No.1 doubles player Jamie Murray wrote on Twitter.
Jonny O’Mara, who is a top 60 doubles player, also took a swipe at the situation on social media by saying ‘Glad I’m on twitter to see tournament schedules and updates. Been searching my junk mail for days.’ Diego Schwartzman wrote ‘once again we found out on Twitter.’
One of the strongest critics is Canada’s Vasek Pospisil, who is a member of the ATP Player Council. In a post that has since been deleted, Pospisil described the move as ‘madness’ before seemingly calling for a union to be formed. A highly debated topic in recent time among players and those governing them.
“This is madness. Major announcement by Roland Garros changing the dates to one week after the US Open. No communication with the players or the ATP.. we have ZERO say in this sport. It’s time. #UniteThePlayers.” He wrote.
In another tweet, the 29-year-old stressed that his criticism only related to the communication provided by the FFT and there was no other motive.
This is such a difficult time. Everyone is being impacted by this catastrophe. Enhancing communication & working together to find solutions should be the priority. Not going Rogue & making selfish/arrogant decisions to further impact the tour in a negative way. #RolandGarros
— Vasek Pospisil (@VasekPospisil) March 17, 2020
On the women’s tour, there has also been a reaction from top players. Although instead of words, they have chosen to communicate their opinions via memes.
— Elina Svitolina (@ElinaSvitolina) March 17, 2020
— Belinda Bencic (@BelindaBencic) March 17, 2020
Everything is fine. pic.twitter.com/VenGwYSqLw
— Madison Keys (@Madison_Keys) March 17, 2020
It is understood that at least one player had been contacted about the announcement before it was made official. Journalist Eric Salliot has reported that French Open tournament director Guy Forget spoke with Rafael Nadal. Nadal, who is the reigning US and French Open champion, is yet to comment in public.
« Réaction de surprise de la part de l’ATP. Il fallait prendre cette décision au nom de l’intérêt supérieur du tournoi. On ne pouvait pas balayer la saison de terre battue. Ce sera l’été indien. Guy Forget a appelé @RafaelNadal » Signé @bgiudicelli_pr #RolandGarros
— Eric Salliot (@ericsalliot) March 17, 2020
It is understood that the ATP and WTA will likely release a statement tomorrow. Meanwhile, on the same day The All England Tennis Club has confirmed that they are hoping to hold Wimbledon on the set dates (29th June-12th July). Meaning there will possibly be three grand slams on three different surfaces within three months. A situation that may trigger a revolt from players in the coming weeks.
Players Face Sanctions If They Make Pro-Putin Statements At French Open, Warns Mauresmo
The tournament director of the French Open admits there is ‘no fair decision’ regarding the participation of Russian and Belarusian players in the Grand Slam.
Amelie Mauresmo, who is a former WTA No.1 player herself, confirmed that players from those countries will be allowed to play during an interview with French radio. Although they will only be allowed to play under a neutral status in line with the rules which have been adopted by other governing bodies of the sport. The action has been taken in response to Russia’s military assault on the Ukraine which began on February 24th. Belarus is suspected of supporting Russia in the conflict which has already killed thousands of people.
The stance of officials in Paris is a stark contrast to that of Wimbledon who has controversially implemented a ban on those players, as well as the LTA. Making it the first time The All England Club has excluded players due to their nationality since the World War Two Era when German and Japanese players weren’t allowed to participate. The ATP Tour is reportedly considering removing the allocation of points to the event in response to the ban.
Speaking about the issue, Mauresmo confirmed that action could be taken against any player who decides to make pro-Putin statements during the tournament. Although she didn’t elaborate on what penalties could be used if such a situation occurs.
“We have thought a lot, and I have the impression that there is no fair decision, one way or the other,” said Mauresmo. “We are in line with what European sports ministers have decided, we do not welcome teams but individual athletes. Obviously if an athlete speaks in the press for example and supports Vladimir Putin, sanctions will be taken. “
Providing an update on the upcoming tournament, Mauresmo says she is confident that this year’s tournament will have an almost full attendance. Confirming that “tickets are sold at more than 90-95%” of its capacity in what she hails as a ‘real success’ for the tournament. Last year’s edition took place with a restricted capacity due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year’s French Open will begin on May 22nd. Novak Djokovic and Barbora Krejcikova are the defending champions.
French Open Prize Money Pool Up By Nearly 7% From 2019 But Singles Champions Will Win Less
More then 40 million euros will be up for grabs during this year’s tournament.
The prize money pool for this year’s French Open will be increased by around 6.8% compared to 2019 which was the last time the event was held before the COVID-19 pandemic.
A total of 43.6 million euros (about $46 million) will be distributed by the French Tennis Federation (FFT) throughout the tournament with the most noticeable increase concerning first round matches. Those participating in the first round will receive 62,000 euros which is a 35% increase compared to 2019 and a 3% increase on what was offered last year.
Another substantial rise concerns the qualifying tournaments with the money pot being 66% higher than 2019 and 30% more than 2021. The amounts on offer in the three-round qualifying tournament are €14,000, €20,000 and €31,000.
“The increase in prize money for the first round of the singles main draws and the qualifying competitions is designed to help the players who have suffered the most as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic,” the FFT outlined in a statement.
This year’s singles champions will each take home €2.2M which is just slightly down on the tally of €2.3M that was offered back in 2019. On the other hand it is an increase of €700,000 compared to last year when the tournament was operating under various restrictions due to the pandemic.
This year’s French Open main draw will get underway on May 22nd. Novak Djokovic and Barbora Krejčíková are the defending champions.
2022 French Open Prize money breakdown
|ROUND||PRIZE MONEY (€)|
|Qualifying – R3||31,000|
|Qualifying – R2||20,000|
|Qualifying – R1||14,000|
Decision By Wimbledon And LTA To Ban Players Over Ukraine War Backed By Nordic Federations
Britain’s controversial move has split opinion in the sport but a group of four countries have endorsed the ban due to ‘the hostility of the Russian and Belarusian states.’
After recent days of criticism towards British officials over their decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players from tournaments this year, the first tennis federations have publicly expressed their support.
During their spring press conference on Wednesday, Wimbledon chiefs said they have ‘no viable option’ but to issue the ban in order to prevent the possibility of “being used to benefit the propaganda machine of the Russian regime”. Russia launched a military attack on Ukraine on February 24th and it is highly suspected that Belarus is supporting them. According to the UN at least 2,729 civilians have been killed and another 3111 injured but the figures are feared to be higher.
The move has split opinion in the sport with both the ATP and WTA both criticizing the decision. Earlier this year the sport’s seven governing bodies issued a statement saying that players from the two countries will still be allowed to participate in tournaments but only as neutral players. Steve Simon, who is the head of the WTA, has hinted that there will be a ‘strong reaction’ from his organization. It is understood that both the ATP and WTA will meet in the coming days during the Madrid Open. In the most extreme scenario, they could decide to revoke their licenses to LTA events or remove their ability to award ranking points.
“We recognize that whatever decision we took, we’ll be setting a precedent,” said Wimbledon CEO Sally Bolton. “We made our judgment in the context of the scale of the response to an international war, the consequences of which reach far wider than the sport of tennis. We appreciate that this is an immensely difficult decision on which people have different views, which we respect and we understand, and we are deeply regretful of the impact that this will have on every single player who is affected.”
Ian Hewitt, who is chairman of the All England Lawn Tennis Club, says the ban was influenced by guidance given by the British government on the matter.
“We believe we have made the most responsible decision possible in the circumstances and that, within the framework of the government’s position, there is no viable alternative to the decision we have taken in this truly exceptional and tragic situation.” He said.
It remains to be seen if other countries will take similar actions in the future. It is understood that the Italian government is currently considering whether to allow Russian and Belarusian players to participate at the upcoming Internazionali BNL d’Italia. A Masters 1000 event for the men and WTA 1000 for the women.
Meanwhile, the tennis federations of four nordic countries have issued a joint-statement in support of the ban by Wimbledon and the LTA. Officials from Sweden, Iceland, Finland and Norway have backed the move. The only country from the region not to co-sign is Denmark but it is unclear as to why.
“We, the undersigned federations, support the position the LTA and AELTC have taken regarding Russian and Belarusian players competing in events in Great Britain. In these exceptional times, tennis must do all it can to stand with the people of Ukraine against the hostility of the Russian and Belarusian states.” The statement reads.
Besides the statement issued from the four countries, no other tennis federations are yet to formally comment on the matter. Furthermore, there has been no statement issued by the International Tennis Federation.
The ban applies to all ATP and WTA events set to take place in Britain this year, as well as Wimbledon.
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