Coronavirus pandemic has interrupted the conventional French Open schedule for the second year in a row
Because of an increase in virus cases in France, the clay-court Grand Slam tennis tournament announced that it would postpone the start of this season’s event by one week.
“This postponement will give us a little more time to improve our health situation and should allow us to maximize our chances of welcoming spectators to Roland Garros,” said Gilles Moretton, the French tennis federation’s president. “Crowd attendance is central to the tournament, the first international sporting event of the spring, whether for the fans, the players, or the atmosphere.”
The French Open was supposed to begin on May 23, but the first round will now begin on May 30. Because of the pandemic, the tournament was postponed to September last year, with attendance capped at 1,000 a day. The postponement would have an effect on the grass-court season, but not on Wimbledon.
In 2015, tennis officials extended the period between the French Open final and the start of Wimbledon to three weeks, allowing players more time to adjust to the game’s fastest surface. However, due to the Thursday announcement, the season will be cut short to two weeks plus Wimbledon.
“The value of a positive build-up to a Grand Slam is shared by all four Grand Slam tournaments. The grass-court season will be cut by one week in 2021 due to the significant difficulties facing the FFT in staging Roland Garros, and to prevent further effects on the rest of the calendar,” the Grand Slam board said in a statement.
Wimbledon was canceled last year due to the pandemic, the first time the oldest Grand Slam tennis event has not been played since World War II.
The decision to postpone this year’s French Open came as hospitals around the country were approaching capacity due to virus outbreaks. New national restrictions have been implemented to slow the spread of diseases, including a three-week school closure, a month-long domestic travel ban, and the closure of non-essential shops.
The decision was made, according to the French tennis federation, in order to increase the chances of the match being played “in front of as many fans as possible” in a healthy setting. The Grand Slam board, according to Ugo Valensi, executive director, supports the postponement. However, Alize Cornet, a French tennis player, slammed Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu for her decision.
In an interview with Tennis Channel, Cornet said, “Our sport minister is a catastrophe.” “To be honest, it’s a pretty selfish decision. And this postponement would have a negative impact on the calendar. I recognize that the tournament is taking place at a difficult time, but we must consider the players and the calendar.” Because of the virus, the Australian Open was postponed three weeks this year, and quarantine restrictions hampered the preparations of some matches.