“Having as many spectators just seems incredibly risky” – Match Points excerpt

In the latest episode of Match Points, tennis writer Ben Rothenberg and former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli disagree on the subject of French Open fans.

September 21, 2020
The figures

In the latest episode of Match Points, a three-team panel debated the issue of Roland-Garros allowing spectators at the upcoming Grand Slam.

Unlike at the US Open, fans will be allowed to attend the French Open — albeit in a limited. Initially the French Tennis Federation was going to welcome 11,000 on the grounds, but that was recently downgraded to 5,000 in part due to the ongoing spread of COVID-19 in France.

For tennis writer Ben Rothenberg, that is still 5,000 too many.

The case against fans

Rothenberg argues that the there is too big of a risk in allowing fans at Roland-Garros. Even if there are distancing rules in place, as there are, he maintains that actually enforcing those rules could be difficult. It will be difficult to prevent people from mingling, especially in the case of rain delays.

“It still makes me very nervous,” Rothenberg cautioned. “This is a public health thing — it’s about having large public gatherings in France. What happens if there is a rain delay? People would crowd in the tunnels and get near each other and everything.

“You’re adding so many variables; you’re adding so much risk with having thousands and thousands of people there. Cases are currently going up at a steep rate in France. People have gotten complacent in various countries; when you have success, you re-open things. And then you have less success.”

The case for fans

Former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli could not disagree more. She will be working on site throughout the French Open and has no reservations about doing so, even with thousands of spectators in her midst.

“I completely disagree with what Ben said, from A to Z,” she said. “I’m going to work at Roland-Garros and I’m six months pregnant. I don’t feel any sort of insecurity going there and having to work there. Everything they explained to me is very reasonable, and I feel extremely confident. We will have zero contact with the players. The only contact I’m going to have is when I will be on court for the interviews. And, still, we will respect social distancing.”

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