French Open Chiefs Not Giving Up On 2020 Event Amid Possible Spectator Ban - UBITENNIS
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French Open Chiefs Not Giving Up On 2020 Event Amid Possible Spectator Ban

All options are on the table as tennis bosses continue to ponder when and how they can restart the sport.

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Should this year’s French Open get the green light to take place, it is likely that the event will be like one never seen before.

 

The most prestigious clay court event of the sport has already been delayed by four months due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has infected more than four million people worldwide, according to John Hopkins University. No professional tennis tournament has taken part since March with the resumption date of the Tour’s sill under discussion by the various governing bodies. Nevertheless, the French Tennis Federation (FFT) are staying upbeat about their chances of hosting the grand slam.

FFT chief Bernard Guidicelli has confirmed that numerous options are on the table regarding Roland Garros. Including the prospect of holding the event behind closed doors for the first time in history. A route that has been taken by other sports such as the South Korea’s top tier football league known as the K League.

“We haven’t ruled out any option. Roland Garros is first and foremost a story of matches and players,” he told the Journal du Dimanche.
“There is the tournament taking place in the stadium, and the tournament on TV screens.
“Millions of viewers around the world are waiting. Organising it behind closed doors would allow part of the business model — television rights (which account for more than a third of the tournament’s revenues) — to go ahead. This cannot be overlooked.”

Recently France has allowed horse racing to start once again from Monday behind closed doors. A somewhat controversial move with professional football being banned from taking place in any capacity until at least September.

There have been signs that the French Open could be staged without fans. Recently they reimburse all tickets for the 2020 event with no new tickets yet to be re-issued. In a statement issued by the FFT, they said the pandemic has created “uncertainty for public events everywhere.’ Should such a decision take place, the tournament will still take a huge financial hit. Last year a total of 520,000 fans attended, according to tournament director Guy Forget.

“Roland Garros is the driving force of tennis in France, it is what feeds the players in our ecosystem (260 million euros in revenue, or 80% of the turnover of the FFT),” Guidicelli stated. “We think of them first, protecting them. We made a courageous choice and today, no one regrets it.”
“A tournament without a date is a boat without a rudder — we don’t know where we’re going.
“We positioned ourselves as far in the calendar as possible, anxious not to harm major events, so that no Masters 1000 or any Grand Slam would be affected. The turn of events seems to have proved us right.”

The waiting game

There is a lot of guessing and hoping when it comes to the prospect of the 2020 season resuming. In a recent interview with Reuters, ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said he was hopeful of the men’s Tour starting again before the year end. A somewhat more optimistic view than that of Rafael Nadal.

“It would be unwise to call it quits now,” Gaudenzi told Reuters. “Nobody knows what will happen, we want to keep an optimistic overview.
“Obviously, there could be a subset of options, which is playing with closed gates or deciding how to deal with travel restrictions. But we have not made these decisions so far because they are all hypothetical scenarios.”

The ATP has stated that their decision regarding playing events in July will be made on May 15th. Meanwhile, their deadline for August is June 1st. It is expected that WTA and ITF will be following a similar timeline.

Then there is the uncertainty surrounding the US Open, which takes place shortly before Roland Garros. The United States Tennis Association has said their final decision will be made in June. Among their options includes the possibility of relocating the major from New York to Indian Wells.

“I have regular conversations with Andrea Gaudenzi [ATP], Steve Simon [WTA] and David Haggerty [ITF]; a call is also planned next week to see how we have advanced. We are working well together, but it is still a bit early to precisely determine the schedule for the clay court sequence.” Guidicelli concluded.

The French Open is currently set to take place between September 20-October 4, but there are ongoing discussions that it could be delayed by a further week.

Grand Slam

French Open Chief Hoping To Ease COVID-19 Related Restrictions In Coming Weeks

Former world No.4 Guy Forget says he hopes to learn from the controversy caused by the recently cancelled Adria Tour.

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The man in charge of organising this year’s French Open has said he is optimistic that there will be more flexibility in the restrictions placed upon his event as it nears its launch.

 

Guy Forget has told Reuters News Agency that he believes the clay-court major will be nowhere as strict as the US Open, which will take place a couple weeks prior. The US Open is taking place behind closed doors for the first time in history and players will be subjected to various measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Including regular temperature checks and being limited to how many members of their team they can bring with them. It comes as parts of America reports a rapid rise in cases of the virus.

However, Forget believes that the COVID-19 restrictions set to be implemented in New York will not apply to his tournament because the current situation in his country is not as bad. According to the BBC, more than 29,000 people have died from COVID-19 in France compared to an estimated 132,000 in America.

“Luckily things are a bit more flexible in Europe and in France, especially,” Forget told Reuters. “Hopefully, what we’re going to announce will probably be even more flexible than what we did.”

Despite Forget’s optimism, there is also a lot of caution given recent events that have happened in the sport. The Adria Tour, which was founded by world No.1 Novak Djokovic, was cancelled after an outbreak of the virus among players. Djokovic, Grigor Dimitrov, Viktor Troicki and Borna Coric all tested positive, as well as some coaching staff. The event was criticised for a lack of social distancing with players attending parties, however it all took place in accordance with local government rules. Meanwhile, at the DraftKings All-American Team Cup in Atalanta Frances Tiafoe withdrew due to testing positive for the virus, but the event continued.

“Maybe some people were overconfident there,” Forget commented on the Adria Tour.
“Luckily no one got hurt really bad but even a few cases is too much and we want to avoid that as much as we can.
“We want to reassure everyone that having people getting ill will be terrible for us. Let’s be really careful, really cautious.”

At present, the French Tennis Federation plans to allow up to 20,000 people to attend the French Open daily with 10,000 on the final day. Equating to roughly 60% of its maximum capacity which is a figure based on ‘health-related information and the projected guidelines.’ Those attending will be required to wear masks whilst walking around the venue but not when sitting courtside.

“We all see soccer on television, it’s wonderful but something is missing without the crowds,” Forget said about the importance of a crowd.
“We are working closely with the administration, the government, to make sure we can provide some crowd while still following very strict security measures.”

The French Open is set to get underway on September 27th. Ash Barty and Rafael Nadal are the defending champions.

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Grand Slam

Australian Open Chief Confident Event Will Take Place In January Amid COVID-19 Jump In Region

Craig Tiley has addressed concerns about the Grand Slam following a new outbreak in Victoria.

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The tournament director of the Australian Open has insisted that plans for next year’s tournament are on track despite a spike in COVID-19 cases around Melbourne.

 

Craig Tiley has stated that the Grand Slam will only take place in the city and there are no backup plans to potentially relocate the event in a worst case scenario. The Australian Open is held annually at Melbourne Park and this year attracted a record attendance of 812,174 people. Although there are concerns about the threat posed by COVID-19 with the Victoria State Government reporting another 66 cases of the virus on Friday. Making it the 17th day the daily infection rate has been in double digits. It is possible that the number could be higher with health minister Jenny Mikakos confirming around 10,000 people have refused to be tested with some claiming the virus to be a ‘conspiracy theory.’

According to ABC News Tiley and his team are planning for six scenarios concerning the Australian Open taking place, including the possibility of holding it behind closed doors. Although he is optimistic that the event and others also set to take place next January will go ahead as planned.

“Nothing has changed for us in terms of our planning,” Tiley told AAP.
“The environment around us has changed, and will continue to change, as we’ve seen with the current spike in Victoria.
“We’re optimistic the additional measures currently in place will be successful — and restrictions will continue to be eased over the coming months.”

The Tournament director has also confirmed that there will be little flexibility concerning the staging of next year’s event. Saying it will only take place in Melbourne and during January if it goes ahead. Although he is keeping a close eye on the two Grand Slams that are set to take place later this season.

“The US Open and the French Open are exploring mandatory testing, varying levels of quarantine and limiting entourages,” he said.
“Of course we are looking at all these options, and more, as part of our scenario planning.
“It’s difficult to predict exactly what will need to be in place as guidelines and protocols are changing week by week, and sometimes even day by day.”

This year’s US Open is set to get underway on August 31st, but will be held behind closed doors for the first time. Meanwhile the French Open, which starts only weeks after the New York major, plans to allow up to 20,000 fans to attend daily. Working out to be roughly 60% of its maximum capacity.

The last time the Australian Open didn’t take place was in 1986 due to a change in its hosting date from December to January. Founded in 1905, it is the youngest out of the four grand slam tournaments.

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Grand Slam

Patrick Mouratoglou Cast Doubt On US Open Taking Place As Covid-19 Cases Soar

One top health expert has warned American lawmakers that the country could reach 100,000 cases of the virus per day.

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The coach of Serena Williams has said he is unsure ‘if it is a good move’ for the US Open to go ahead amid the ongoing COVID-19 crises.

 

Patrick Mouratoglou told Sky Sports that he believes it is ‘a bit crazy’ for the event to be going ahead as planned. This year’s Grand Slam in New York is taking place behind closed doors for the first time in history and will be implementing strict measures to deal with the threat of COVID-19. Including regular testing and temperature checks. Players will also be kept essentially in a ‘bubble’ throughout and limited to where they can go. All tennis tournaments have been suspended since March due to the Pandemic but the Tour is set to resume in August.

”With what’s happening at the moment in the US, with the number of cases of COVID-19 going higher and higher every day, I don’t think how that can happen,” Mouratoglou told Sky Sports.
“From outside, it looks a bit crazy to try to make it happen. So, I don’t know if it’s a good move.
“I wouldn’t say that if the situation was more stable like it is in Europe, then it’s a different story. But in the US and especially in New York and around New York is… I mean, the number of cases is increasing incredibly. So, I don’t know how reasonable that is to try to make it happen. And I don’t know if last minute the governor of New York will decide to cancel it because of course health first.”

Recently Dr Anthony Fauci, who is a top disease expert, told the United States Senate that he would not be surprised if the country soars to 100,000 cases of the Coronavirus each day. His warning comes as Reuters News Agency reports that there was a rise of more than 47,000 cases on Tuesday. The biggest jump in daily cases since the pandemic started.

As a result of the rise, New York has said that people travelling from 16 different states in America are now required to self-quarantine for 14 days if they visit the city. According to USA Today this ruling applies to roughly 48% of the entire American population. Due to the uncertain situation, Mouratoglou believes it is still possible the US Open could get cancelled nearer the time.

“I think it’s completely possible that two weeks before he [Andrew Cuomo] decides I mean, considering the situation, this is not reasonable to bring people from all over the world there, mix them together and potentially put them in touch with one of the countries that has the most cases at the moment.” He said.

Some players are yet to clarify their plans for the Grand Slam and if they will be playing. Rafael Nadal, Petra Kvitova and Simona Halep are some of those who have previously expressed their concerns. However, former champion and world No.1 Andy Murray says is it a ‘positive’ move for the event to be going ahead as well as the French Open which will follow shortly after.

“Getting the US Open and the French Open played this year is a good thing, I think. It’s positive, I just don’t like the way the French Open went about scheduling their event,” Murray told the BBC. “But we’re going to have to go back to playing at some stage. The most important thing is that the events are safe.”

The US Open is set to get underway on August 31st.

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