Djokovic making the best of the situation at unusual French Open
- 06 Oct 2020
- By Ricky Dimon
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
This is a most unusual tennis season and every tournament is unique in its own way, but despite the new normal amidst the coronavirus pandemic Novak Djokovic just keeps winning, and winning, and winning. The Serb currently finds himself in the French Open quarter-finals, improving to 35-1 in 2020 with straight-set victories over Mikael Ymer, Ricardas Berankis, Daniel Elahi Galan, and Karen Khachanov.
The bubble doesn’t exist
Although there were inevitably some coronavirus-related problems at the US Open, for the most part the bubble in New York worked about as well as anyone could have hoped. In Paris, however, many players have been complaining about the lack of structure. Djokovic did not exactly complain about it following his third-round win over Galan, but he did indicate that there is no real bubble.
“There are a lot of things that are out of the ordinary — first and foremost the virus,” the world No 1 commented. “We are tested often and we have to stay at the hotel, but I have to say that the bubble doesn’t exist. In the room next to mine one family stayed for a few days; in the hotel I keep running into people who have nothing to do with tennis, so you can’t really call it a bubble.”
COVID-19 is not the only element that is making more a unique French Open. This is the first year in which there has been a roof over Court Philippe-Chatrier and lights on the outer courts. Those have been critical in staging this tournament, because rain and also darkness coming much earlier in the day at this time of year would have made it impossible for Roland-Garros to take place. The roof — and lighting, too — has been a life-saver, but it has not been perfect.
“As for other things like the roof, the quality of the court, etc., those are matters that are out of my hands,” Djokovic continued. “As a player I can be consulted, but the supervisor makes the decision whether to close the roof or not, to play in muddy conditions or not, and I have to accept it; what can I do? I can say, ‘this is dangerous,’ which was the case after Galan slipped and we agreed on it. Maybe people can’t tell by watching on TV, but it can be really dangerous on this surface. It’s a bit odd to me when people in everyday footwear come and check the state of the court. They are wearing casual Lacoste sneakers when they make a decision on whether it’s slippery or not. If you are checking, wear a clay-court tennis sneaker, slide a bit left and right, make a few hard steps…. It’s a bit contradictory — as a supervisor you have the power to say ‘continue’ or ‘stop,’ but you can’t really feel what we are feeling on the court.
“The first day I had practiced at Chatrier it rained, the wind was strong and you could feel some of the rain inside, as well. I will not discuss architecture, why is it the way it is, I am no expert and I cannot talk about that. In other places (like the) US Open and Australian Open, the roofs close and seal completely, and the air circulation is controlled by air conditioners inside. Here, there is no artificial circulation inside – if it is humid, you cannot feel the air flow. It is a little unusual…but at least we have a roof.”