Ben Rothenberg discusses a most unusual French Open – French Insider excerpt

In the this interview with The French Insider hosted by Jenny Drummond, New York Times tennis reporter Ben Rothenberg talks about all the things involved in a most unusual French Open.

September 29, 2020

In this interview with The French Insider, Ben Rothenberg discusses all of the factors that are making the 2020 French Open so unique. Every tournament so far since tennis returned from its five-month coronavirus hiatus has been a little bit different in their own ways, and Roland-Garros is no exception.

There are less than 1,000 fans per day allowed on the grounds, there has been controversy related to coronavirus testing, and there are tricky weather conditions to which players must adapt.

Fans – the risk vs. the reward

“I was definitely skeptical that it was a good idea to have 5,000 people mixing in a small space,” Rothenberg commented. “The Chatrier stadium only seats around 15,000, so if it was maxed out to 5,000 that’s a very small space (for so many people) — still 33 percent capacity…. In France we see the numbers of infection continuing to grow each day. It’s not under control in France, so I think the government made a good decision in restricting the number of people there.

“It has been nice watching the matches and seeing some atmosphere, even with just a couple hundred people…. However, obviously that benefit comes with risk. That risk-reward calculation is something that tennis is having to wrestle with.”

Not your normal weather

When host Jenny Drummond asked for his perception of the tournament so far, Rothenberg — who is covering the tournament remotely from Washington, D.C. — was quick to point out the unique weather. After all, this is late September; the French Open is normally held four months earlier in late May and early June.

“I’ve been surprised at how different it feels watching a cold tournament. Having everyone all bundled up in their long pants and their long sleeves and their jackets just doesn’t make it feel like tennis. Tennis is normally a warm-weather sport. Having people have to slog through this cold, it just gives a different vibe than what tennis normally has.

“It’s a very visual reminder of how different things are.”

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