PARIS (AP) – For the second year in a row, the traditional French Open schedule is being disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.
The clay court Grand Slam tennis tournament said Thursday that it will delay the start of this season’s event by a week due to the increase in virus cases in France.
“This postponement will give us a little more time to improve the health situation and should allow us to optimize our chances of welcoming spectators at Roland Garros,” said Gilles Moretton, president of the French tennis federation. “Whether it’s for the fans, the players or the atmosphere, the presence of the crowd is essential to the tournament, the first international sporting event of the spring.”
The French Open was scheduled to start on May 23, but first-round matches will now start on May 30.
Last year’s tournament was delayed until September due to the pandemic, with crowds limited to 1,000 a day.
The delay will have a ripple effect on the grass season, but not at Wimbledon.
Tennis authorities widened the gap between the French Open final and the start of Wimbledon to three weeks in 2015, giving players more time to get used to the faster surface of the game. But due to the delay announced on Thursday, the season will be shortened to two more weeks Wimbledon.
“The four Grand Slam tournaments are united in their view of the importance of meaningful preparation for each Grand Slam … However, given the considerable challenges the FFT faces in staging Roland Garros, and for To avoid further impact on the rest of the calendar, the grass court season will be shortened by one week in 2021, ”the Grand Slam board said in a statement.
Wimbledon was canceled last year due to the pandemic, the first time since World War II that the oldest Grand Slam tennis tournament was not played.
The move to delay this year’s French Open came as the country’s hospitals near saturation of virus cases. To slow the pace of infections, new restrictions have been applied across the country, including closing schools for three weeks, a national travel ban for a month, and closing non-essential stores.
The French tennis federation said the decision was made in order to maximize the chances that the event will be played “in front of as many spectators as possible” in a safe environment.
Ugo Valensi, executive director of the Grand Slam board, said the organization supports the delay. But French tennis player Alize Cornet criticized Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu for the decision.
“Our sports minister is a mess,” Cornet said, speaking to the Tennis Channel. “It’s a pretty selfish decision, to be honest. Because the calendar is going to suffer this postponement. I understand that this is not an easy moment for the tournament, but we have to think about the players and the calendar ”.
This year’s Australian Open was delayed for three weeks due to the virus, and quarantine restrictions affected preparations for several players.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.