And then Wimbledon was gone too. Even the Championships, which from their 1877 onset (won by Spencer Gore) had only suffered extended hiatuses during the two World Wars, skipping the 1915-1918 and 1940-1945 editions (in 1940 the Lutwaffe released a bomb that destroyed Centre Court almost entirely). The Championships, which from 1946, when the 6-foot-5 Frenchman Ivan Petra triumphed, had taken place 74 times in a row, had to give way to the Coronavirus, in a third World War against an invisible enemy that isn’t involving just a few nations like the previous two, but rather the whole planet.
I’m fully aware that there are far worse predicaments than the cancellation of the Championship on Church Road. I’m fully aware that health is the most important thing in life, and that too many have had to relinquish it forever. I’m fully aware that too many families have lost their loved ones without even getting a chance to say goodbye or to bury them, without even getting a chance to know where their bodies were taken. I’m fully aware that these are the real tragedies. I’m fully aware that many families will keep suffering the consequences of this terrible virus, torn between the excruciating memory of the departed and the financial hardship of the present, which threaten to erase entire companies along with their employees.
I’m fully aware that I can call myself very lucky for having a home that is spacious enough to allow for seven members of my family to share the quarantine together without enduring the hardships that have gnawed at those who happen to live in narrower quarters and who have perhaps been plagued by a lack of food and medicine supplies.
I’m fully aware that so many of us, millions of us, still don’t know whether we have contracted the virus or not, or whether we have been, because we haven’t had the chance to get tested, nor do we know when we will.
I’m fully aware that just the fact of not experiencing any symptoms – so far – is a stroke of luck.
I’m also fully aware that not having lost any of my closest friends or relatives is also a stroke of luck, and an immeasurable one.
Therefore, it wouldn’t make any sense, while the pandemic is still raging and no one knows when it will be eradicated from our lives – I fear it won’t be until the science will provide us with a vaccine able to suppress potential relapses – it wouldn’t make any sense to show too much grief over the cancellation of sports in the midst of all of this, or for the disappearance of tennis from clubs and tournaments, taking away a chance for escapism from tragic daily updates.
I’m fully aware that the survival of UbiTennis isn’t a priority during this emergency, even though over 20 people risk losing a source of income.
As a matter of fact, I’m not going to complain that the about 12 years of hard work poured into making this website journalistically credible and financially self-sufficient are now slated for a major setback. I accept it, and I’m aware that many others are going to suffer a lot more – we remain optimistic, even if we were to lose the whole season, and, with it, a whole year of advertising.
I’ve fought for all the young people who have contributed with their greatest effort for the development of UbiTennis.com, UbiTennis.net, and UbiTennis.es, I’ve fought to create a future for them rather than for an aged man such as myself, especially considered that my children have taken different career paths. I’ve launched into this, and my collaborators have too, with a full awareness of the bumps we would have met on the road, without deluding ourselves too much. Now that we were about to catch a breath, with 5 million of unique users on the Italian version of the website and a more and more competent staff, this virus pretty darn wrong-footed us like a Federer tweener.
I have to say that, to my utter surprise, the website held up amazingly well in March, as we kept receiving between 30,000 and 40,000 visits per day, despite the lack of tournament play. This is why I need to thank once again those who are still contributing to the website, as we still have a stash of 30 unpublished material – I’m not talking about archive stuff, but rather of interviews to important figures of the game, a series of featured videos on all-time champions complete with data and anecdotes, didactic material, podcast plans, statistics, and feel-good tennis tales.
After this long preamble, allow me to say that yours truly – I’m so jealous of Gianni Clerici for co-opting the “Scribe” moniker for himself, I hate calling myself “yours truly” or emplying periphrases like “the author of this article” – while aware of everything that might have happened to me, is quite unsettled by the idea of staying home-bound and not going to Wimbledon after having done so for 46 editions in a row – almost a lifetime. Since 1974, from Connors’ steamrolling of Ken Rosewall to Djokovic saving two match points against Federer, I had never missed a single day, let alone an edition.
Two weeks multiplied per 46 years means 92 weeks, and when early arrivals, late departures, and rain delays to a third Monday are factored in (let’s not forget about the 2012 Olympics either), it means that two years of my life have been spent at SW19, from daylight to dusk. I can’t quite explain why, but this cancellation hit me harder than those of Monte Carlo (46 consecutive editions), Rome (48), and Roland Garros (44).
Perhaps it has to do with the fact that, when those three vanished, I was still looking ahead to Wimbledon, the tournament that takes place in the bona fide temple of tennis, the only one whose every final I recollect with no effort, and of which I treasure so many stories, so many details, so many anecdotes, so many people, so much life. I will miss it deeply. On first thought, I’d written “terribly” rather than “deeply”, but I immediately corrected myself, because, as I said, there are far more terrible things (and privations), but the fact remains that for over half of my life going to Wimbledon was just a hair below a pilgrimage for a devotee. Actually, a pilgrimage feels like an apt analogy to end on, because I would gladly get to Church Road on foot just to see it happen once more.
Translated from Italian by Tommaso Villa
French Open Make Changes To Tournament Schedule
One draw is getting bigger but another has been cut by 50%!
The French Tennis Federation (FFT) is increasing the number of players participating in this year’s French Open qualifying tournament in order to help provide financial support to more on the Tour.
From 2021 the clay court Grand Slam will welcome 128 players to the qualifying event which is the same number of players participating in the main draw. This is a 33% increase in the usual number of participants which is 96. The event is scheduled to take place over four days between May 24-28 but will be held behind closed doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic like last year. However, organisers are still hopeful they will still be able to open the main draw up to the public.
“This decision will also allow the tournament to support a category of players who have been particularly affected by the Covid-19 crisis, financially-speaking,” a statement reads.
Last year’s French Open offered 10,000 euros to players who lost in the first round of qualifying. Players who qualified and reached the main draw were guaranteed to take home at least 60,000 euros. The prize money breakdown of this year’s tournament is still to be confirmed.
Another change being made concerns the Mixed Doubles event, which wasn’t held at Roland Garros in 2020. The draw will be making a comeback but with a 50% reduction in its field size. Just 16 teams will be playing in the draw compared to the usual 32. Meaning this year’s Mixed Doubles champions will only have to win four matches en route to the title.
This year’s French Open has already been pushed back by a week due to the pandemic with officials hoping the extra delay will maximise their chances of welcoming fans to the event. Although world No.2 Daniil Medvedev recently questioned the decision and if it would make any difference.
“It will give the health situation more time to improve and should optimise our chances of welcoming spectators at Roland-Garros,” said FFT President Gilles Moreton.
“For the fans, the players and the atmosphere, the presence of spectators is vital for our tournament, the spring’s most important international sporting event.”
The French Open main draw is set to start on May 30th. Rafael Nadal and Iga Swiatek are the defending champions.
REPORT: French Open Night Sessions Could Be Exclusively For Men
There will be an equal number of men’s and women’s matches on the premier court but one source is claiming priority will be given to one gender when it comes to playing at night.
The upcoming French Open could be embodied in controversy after a leading media source reported that a deal is being struck to give the evening slot to only male players.
This year will be the first time in history the clay court major will implement a night session starting from 21:00 local time. It has been made possible following a series of upgrades to the venue, including the use of floodlights. The French Open is the third major to implement such a session after both the US Open and Australian Open.
Although a significant argument could break out concerning the tournament with accusations of sexism. RMC Sport has obtained some information about the event and claims a deal is set to be struck for only men’s matches to be played at night. It is alleged that the move is down to the Amazon who has exclusive rights to the 10 night sessions. The belief is that they want to focus more on the men at night in order to maximise their potential audience.
RMC reports that the ‘provisional programme’ for the French Open is that there will be an equal number of men’s and women’s matches on the prestigious Philippe Chatrier Court. However, when it comes to the end of the day it will be men only. There has been no formal confirmation from either Amazon or the French Tennis Federation (FFT) regarding the report.
The controversial claims comes amid speculation over the start date of the French Open after the country went into lockdown for the third time. Roxana Maracineanu, who is the French minister of sport, recently admitted that a delay is possible due to the pandemic.
“Discussions are underway with the organisers on the methods used, in particular for the reception of the public,” the ministry spokeswoman told AFP.
“A delay of a few days is under discussion,” she added.
Both the ATP and WTA will be hoping that no delay occurs due to the impact it could have on their calendars. Should the Grand Slam take place a week later than expected, it will clash with four tournaments set to mark the start of the grass-court season. They are the ATP Stuttgart, ATP s-Hertogenbosch, WTA Nottingham and WTA ‘s-Hertogenbosch.
The French Open is critical for the FFT with it generating roughly 80% of their annual turnover, according to L’Equipe newspaper. Officials are hoping to hold the event in front of fans but this is subject to how the pandemic develops over the coming weeks. Last year the event was allowed to welcome no more than 1000 fans per day under government rules.
At present the French Open is set to begin on May 17th.
UPDATE: The FFT has since published a statement in which they have denied the report.
French Open Start Date In Doubt Amid COVID-19 Crises
Will the French Open get underway next month or not?
A member of the government has confirmed that it is possible that the French open could be delayed for a second year in a row as the country enters into a third national lockdown.
Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu, who is a former Olympic swimmer herself, has told French radio that numerous options are on the table. Ranging from holding the event as currently planned to cancelling it all together. Last year the Grand Slam was moved to September due to the COVID-19 pandemic and took place with a reduced number of spectators allowed to attend.
“We are in discussion with them (the French Tennis Federation, which organises the event) to see if we should change the date to coincide with a possible resumption of all sports and major events,” Maracineanu told France Info radio.
“Today, although high-level sport has been preserved, we try to limit the risks of clusters, of spreading the virus within professional sports.”
Earlier in the week the head of the French Tennis Federation (FFT) said the tournament was on track but admitted that it is possible that the situation could change in the coming weeks. During an interview with AFP, Gilles Moretton stated that any future decision depends on lockdown restrictions.
“At the moment we are on track, the tournament is on the scheduled dates,” said Moretton. “But if we are told a general confinement for two months, we will necessarily have to take measures—at worst, complete cancellation, but I dare not imagine that.
The French Open is currently set to start next month on May 23rd. However, uncertainty over the event coincides with a surge in COVID-19 cases in the country. On Friday authorities said the number of seriously ill COVID patients in intensive care rose by 145 which is the biggest jump in five months. On the same day the country reported 46,677 new cases and 304 deaths.
In a bid to reduce the strain of the pandemic, a lockdown has been imposed on the country with all non-essential shops shut for four weeks and a curfew in place between 19:00 and 0600. Most sporting events have been unaffected by the move so far with the only exception being cycling’s Paris-Roubaix one-day race which has been delayed.
Rafael Nadal and Iga Swiatek are the reigning champions at Roland Garros.
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