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.
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.
Daniil Medvedev Questions ‘Ridiculous’ Decision To Delay French Open
The Tennis star wonders if a seven-day delay will be worth it for the French authorities?
World No.2 Daniil Medvedev says he is surprised by the decision to postpone the start of the French Open as he questions the logic of such a move.
Recently the French Tennis Federation (FFT) confirmed that their premier Grand Slam will be delayed by seven days and start on May 30th. The announcement occurred less than a week after the country went into their third lockdown in a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19. Officials hope the extra week will provide more time for the pandemic to be kept under control and therefore more spectators will be allowed to the tournament. The lockdown is set to end mid-May which gives the French Open roughly two weeks to prepare.
“The fact that the French public authorities have maintained large sports events despite the health measures tightening, the FFT, for this 2021 edition of Roland-Garros, aims at maximising the chances – for the players and for the overall tennis community – that the tournament is played in front of the largest possible number of fans, while guaranteeing health and safety. Regarding both objectives, every week is important and can make a difference,” a statement reads.
The FFT is eager to welcome as many people as possible to the tournament. It is estimated that 80% of their annual turnover is related to the Grand Slam, according to L’Equipe newspaper.
However, former US Open finalist Medvedev has cast doubt over how much of a difference the delay would make due to the unpredictability of COVID-19. It is possible that fans could still not be allowed to attend the tournament if cases in the region are still high. On Saturday France reported that 5,769 COVID-19 patients are in intensive care, compared with 5,757 on Friday.
“I’m a bit surprised because if we talk about rules, about the French Open, not the French Open itself, but the country and the government, what does it change if we do it a week later?” Medvedev said in French during his press conference in Monte Carlo on Sunday.
“We’re talking about COVID here. I’m not sure it will change anything. I must say it’s a bit ridiculous. But not on the part of the French Federation or the government, it’s just the general situation. When you look at it that way, it gives you the feeling that if you postpone by one week, the COVID will disappear in one week. There are many rules. Sometimes there might have to be some exceptions.”
The 25-year-old does see an advantage of the situation with it giving him and his peers more time to prepare going into Roland Garros. There will be a two-week gap between the tournament and the Rome Masters.
On the other hand, there are also drawbacks to the date change. The grass court season has now been cut to two weeks between the French Open ending and Wimbledon starting. The shortest period between the two since 2014.
“I’m not talking about me, but a player who is going to the quarterfinals in the French Open will be in a bad situation for the grass court season,” said Medvedev. “In that case he will only be able to play Wimbledon. It’s never easy to play only one tournament in the grass court season.”
Despite his credentials, Medvedev is yet to win a main draw match at the French Open. Losing in the first round of the tournament four years in a row. Ironically the Russian lives in France, has a French coach and even speaks the language fluently.
“I just need to play good, feel better than I did the past years. What I mean by that, on hard courts maybe some matches I cannot feel the ball that good or not feel good physically or mentally, but I can still win some matches because it’s kind of automatic what I do there. Okay, play on the backhand of the guy, he’s going to miss or something like that. On clay I don’t have this. It’s much harder for me to play, which I don’t hide. I know I’m capable of playing good and won some very good matches a few years ago.” He concluded.
Medvedev is the second seed in Monte Carlo after Novak Djokovic.
French Open To Be Delayed In Bid To Persuade Authorities To Allow Fans [UPDATED)
Officials hope such a move will prevent the Grand Slam from being held behind closed doors but will it be enough?
The French Tennis Federation (FFT) are set to issue an announcement on Thursday which will confirm the delay of the French Open by one week.
Multiple media sources, including both The Telegraph and AFP news agency, have received information that the two-week Grand Slam will start on May 30th instead of May 23rd. The move coincides with France entering into their third lockdown to her curb the spread of COVID-19. Earlier this week it was acknowledged by the government that talks about potentially delaying the start of the tournament were actively being discussed.
According to Telegraph Sport, the reason for the change of date is to help persuade the French government to allow fans to attend the event. The idea being that the later the tournament takes place, the more likely fans will be allowed to attend as long as the pandemic is under control. It it was to take place on the previous date there was a good chance it would have taken place behind closed doors.
The French Open is a critical event for the FFT with it accounting for an estimated 80% of its revenue, according to L’Equipe. A French sports newspaper who has also confirmed the new tournament date.
It is likely that Roland Garros will take place in similar circumstances to 2020. Last year the tournament was delayed until September but this isn’t possible this season due to the packed calendar. Authorities allowed up to 1000 fans to attend the tournament each day.
There will now be a significant impact on the men’s and women’s calendar with the tournament eating into the already short grass-court season. Two ATP and two WTA events are currently scheduled to take place during the second week of the French Open (if the new date is confirmed). There has been no statement from either of the governing bodies so far but it is likely they will respond when the formal announcement is made.
As a result of the move, there will be just two weeks before the end of the French Open and the start of Wimbledon. Something that hasn’t happened in the sport since 2014.
Even with a seven-day delay it is still unclear as to how many fans could be allowed to attend the venue as France tackles the virus. On Wednesday the health ministry reported that the number of people in intensive care units (ICU) with COVID-19 increased by 103 to a new 2021 record of 5,729 people. A week-on-week increase of 13.4% which is the biggest jump since November.
April 8th 2021 – update
It has now been confirmed that the start of 2021 French Open will be delayed until May 30th. In a press release the FFT says their decision has received the full backing of the Grand Slam Board. It has also been confirmed that the delay has been made to maximise the chances of fans attending the event.
“I am delighted that the discussions with the public authorities, the governing bodies of international tennis, our partners and broadcasters, and the ongoing work with the WTA and ATP, have made it possible for us to postpone the 2021 Roland-Garros tournament by a week,” said FFT president Gilles Moretton.
“It will give the health situation more time to improve and should optimise our chances of welcoming spectators at Roland-Garros, into our newly-transformed stadium that now covers more than 30 acres. 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.”
Meanwhile a joint statement have also been issued by the ATP and WTA. As a result of the date change the second week of the Grand Slam will clash with four tournaments.
“Tennis has required an agile approach to the calendar over the past 12 months in order to manage the challenges of the pandemic, and this continues to be the case. The decision to delay the start of Roland-Garros by one week has been made in the context of recently heightened COVID-19 restrictions in France, with the additional time improving the likelihood of enhanced conditions and ability to welcome fans at the event. Both the ATP and WTA are working in consultation with all parties impacted by the postponement to optimise the calendar for players, tournaments and fans in the lead up to and following Roland-Garros. Further updates will be communicated in due course.”
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