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“The French government has a say on Roland-Garros decision” – Match Points excerpt

In the latest edition of Match Points, our panel debate whether moving back a week was the right decision for Roland-Garros and whether it’s worth it, given the impact it will have on the grasscourt season

April 29, 2021
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The decision by Roland-Garros to move back one week in the calendar in 2021 has a knock-on effect for the grass-court season, reducing the grasscourt season by a week, back to the way things were before 2015.

In the latest edition of Match Points, host Josh Cohen asks our panel whether they were right to make the move and whether, as the Covid-19 numbers in France continue to rise, it will make any difference in terms of allowing more fans through the gates.

Bartoli: “Roland-Garros is as important to France as the Tour de France”

Former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli says the French Tennis Federation (FFT) must have made the move on the backing of the government and the understanding that more fans could be allowed in.

“I think it’s a good idea because the French Federation is really in close discussion with the French government since a long time now,” she says.

“Actually, since the past edition was already finished, they started to schedule the next edition because the turnaround was a lot shorter than usual, which was half a year later to organise another Grand Slam, which is very short. Roland-Garros is part of the french history as the same as the Tour de France.”

Bartoli: “I don’t think Roland-Garros will earn money in 2021”

Bartoli said staging the event at the best possible time was crucial to the FFT, which was heavily hit in 2020 when it was only able to allow a maximum of 1,000 fans into Roland-Garros.

Marion Bartoli, 2019 Roland-Garros

“I think for a tournament like Roland-Garros, they lost so much money last year, they can’t really massively afford to lose again that amount of money this year so they’re trying to figure out the best way, and to work hand in hand with the French government to get enough public to try to break even,” she says.

“I don’t think they will earn money on Roland-Garros but they going to try not to lose as much as they did last year. And I think that’s very important because at the end of the day, if there are no tournaments, then the players can’t play anymore.”

Rothenberg: “I don’t think you can say it will change things”

But New York Times journalist Ben Rothenberg says the decision will have too strong an impact on the grasscourt season, while the benefits for Roland-Garros are not set in stone.

“I think it put a lot of strain and a lot of pressure on the grass tournaments afterwards and the players who play in them,” he says. “The grass tournaments had it very hard last year, none of them were able to be held in 2020. Those tournaments really need to have a good 2021 edition.

“And the French Open made that a lot tougher for what I think is ultimately a very unclear reward. I don’t think you can confidently say that having it one-week later, it’s going to change things. And it’s a very late time to make this change too, the clay season had already started when this announcement was made. And that’s too late to be changing the French.”

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