French Open considering playing with reduced crowds

Roland-Garros organisers are considering playing in front of reduced crowds, to avoid having to cancel the tournament altogether.

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Things are looking brighter for the French Open. On Saturday, tournament director Guy Forget announced that the final dates for Roland-Garros will soon be announced; if it goes ahead it will start either on September 20 or September 27. The date will be set “soon”, Bernard Giudicelli, president of the French Tennis Federation (FFT), confirmed on French radio station “France Info”.

“We are discussing the date with all the international bodies, the ATP, the WTA, the International Federation (ITF), the Frenchman said. “We are working on setting up a global calendar for the end of the season as well. It’s still a little early to announce the final date.”

In an exclusive interview with Tennis Majors, in which he also discussed the financial aspects of the crisis for the Federation, FFT Treasurer General Hughes Cavallin said he was optimistic that the tournament will take place as scheduled:

“The scenario is increasingly optimistic. I’ll give you an example. If the French Government holds municipal elections in June, I don’t see how we couldn’t put people in stadiums.”

“We escaped the worst”

In an interview on Sunday on the FFT’s Twitter account, Giudicelli, ranked 7th in our list of the major actors of the lockdown, reflected with satisfaction on his original decision to postpone the tournament to September, a unilateral move that created some turmoil among players and tennis’ other governing bodies.

“I think we avoided the worst: the suspension or the total cancellation. We’ve got a postponement of a few months and it’s a huge sigh of relief! We’ll be there for all the tennis lovers and that’s what matters. We’ve preserved the world’s biggest clay-court tournament,” he said, enthusiastically.

The FFT boss said playing the tournament behind closed doors would be a last resort.

“It’s really the ultimate option. It’s the one that would be decided if the only other possibility is cancellation. So it’s not our priority at all.”

“We are working on a reduced crowd capacity”

Giudicelli, in an interview on French TV show Stade 2, said reducing the capacity of the stadiums was the favoured option. Roger Federer suggested the same thing on Saturday.

“We’re working to host a tournament with the entire crowd, even if it seems very unlikely. We will follow the conditions of the authorities. More likely, we are heading towards holding the tournament with a diminished capacity. We would be satisfied with that option.” 

The general treasurer of the FFT confirmed this hypothesis to Tennis Majors:

“We’re working on a scenario with a reduced crowd capacity: maybe instead of 40,000 people a day, we will host 25,000. That is a scenario that would allow us to organise a very nice French Open.”

Speaking on French radio station, RTL, French Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu was less optimistic about the French Open being played. But she confirmed she is looking into the possibility of fewer people attending the event.

“It is too early to make a statement because we have to follow the evolution of the epidemic. We are considering what kind of adjusted configuration we might have. We are working on scenarios with smaller audiences.”

She also agreed with Amélie Mauresmo on the need for a vaccine for professional tours to be completely back to normal. To the question, “Is a vaccine necessary for a return to normal?” she replied, “Of course. It is the case in all environments where people are very close together”.

 

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