Strasbourg “is preparing to play behind closed doors” while hoping for 30 percent capacity
Strasbourg tournament director Denis Naegelen, tells Tennis Majors of the latest plans for the WTA event, including news that Coco Gauff and at least one top 20 player will participate
The Strasbourg International is preparing its 2021 edition. Now scheduled from May 23 to 29, to move in conjunction with the one-week postponement of Roland-Garros in order to fill what would have been an week empty in the WTA calendar, organisers are working on different scenarios, which depend on the evolution of the health situation in France and Alsace.
Asked by telephone by Tennis Majors on Thursday, Denis Naegelen, tournament director, conceded that an option without an audience was still most likely. But he remains hopeful of being able to welcome the public to the Strasbourg Tennis Club site, at the foot of the European Parliament.
“Our position may change in eight days. But we are preparing to play behind closed doors, and we hope, with good reason to hope anyway, that we will be able to open with a very small capacity, which could be 30 percent, and to have a little hospitality on the terrace,” Denis Naegelen told us. “We are also working on this diagram. The entire site will have to be transformed, in terms of logistics, planning and security, depending on the hypothesis finally adopted. Are we going to put up 4,000 or 1,000 grandstand seats? Are we going to make a hospitality village of 2,000 square meters or 500 square meters? All this cannot be decided the day before.”
The financial stakes are obviously important for the Strasbourg International.
“It is very clearly 50 percent less income, at least,” said Denis Naegelen, between being completely behind closed doors and being open to spectators, however limited.
Gauff and a Top 20 in the cast
Former 131st-ranked player in the world, Denis Naegelen promises “a very strong table”, including Coco Gauff and a yet to be named Top 20 WTA star, as well as the best French players on the circuit.
“Things are moving, and things are going to move a lot more, I don’t worry too much about that,” he said. “Last year, we still had a historic event. Doing it under these conditions is a small compensation, but it’s still frustrating not being able to present these champions to the entire public in the region. They were still able to see them last year, reduced in size. I hope that will be the case again this year.”
2,200 spectators were admitted simultaneously to the site in 2020, compared to the typical 5,000 . The public was thus able to witness the final victory of Elina Svitolina, against Elena Rybakina in the final, at the end of a week where four members of the Top 20 (Svitolina, Kiki Bertens, Aryna Sabalenka, Rybakina) had taken the courts at Strasbourg.
The final broadcast in at least 100 countries
The context of 2021 will be less conducive to attracting a high density of top female players in Alsace. This did not prevent Denis Naegelen from working to ensure major media coverage for his tournament.
“We kept all our media-TV agreements, we will have a strong broadcast, with beIN Sports as the national operator,” he said. “All the TNT of the Grand-Est will be present on the broadcast the first three days. BeIN Sports will be doing all week and we are in the process of finalizing an agreement with Sport in France, like last year. We kept all our international television agreements, we will be broadcast in at least 100 countries. The final was broadcast in 130 countries last year. We remain a very strong support, in terms of visibility, for Strasbourg and the Strasbourg advertisers. We even try to strengthen it, because we say to ourselves that if we are behind closed doors, our partners must be able to have a little more than they had since they might not have hospitality. We are thinking about all that.”