What could have been an endearing farewell, remained as a cold, cold epilogue. A soulless and aseptic goodbye. After overcoming a cancer that has taken him off the slopes for nine months, Carla Suárez had made an extraordinary effort in the weeks before Roland Garros with the aim of reaching the great Frenchman and being able to say goodbye to his fans, since after 18 seasons as a professional, the Canarian will hang up the racket at the end of the course. However, at around 8:20 pm on Tuesday, the complex’s public address system heard: “The stadium gates will close at 8:45 pm.” And so it happened.
In the middle of the first round match between the Spanish and Sloane Stephens, the public who witnessed the duel – scheduled for the last turn, a skid of the organization – began to vacate the stands until it was completely empty. “I have enjoyed it, but with the public I would have enjoyed it more…”, Suárez lamented with elegance, in a clear message to the tournament management; “It was sad that they had to go. It was not what I had dreamed of, but I hope you at least enjoyed watching it on television. “
This year, within the framework of the profound structural renovation that has been underway since 2015, Roland Garros opens a night session. That is to say, like the Australian Open and the US Open (Wimbledon, true to its nature, still resists), it includes in its schedules matches from 9:00 p.m. on center court. It happens that this edition, the novelty collides head-on with reality: at that time, Parisians must already be at their homes in correspondence with the curfew set by the authorities due to the pandemic.
In this way, the nightlife is decaffeinated, nothing to do with the bustling sessions in Melbourne or of course New York. The members of the respective teams, a dozen photographers and the journalists who go up to the rostrum are hardly present. Tournament employees roam the venue, no one else. “It is definitely different,” said Serena Williams wryly, after starring in the historic program retouch in Paris on Monday with the Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu.
Silence in the Chatrier and the rest of the tracks where the activity still continues because the games have been delayed. Cement. The echo of the balls. “Well, last week I had a lot of support in Belgrade, playing in front of a crowd in the middle of good vibes, so it doesn’t matter…” Novak Djokovic said on Tuesday, biting his tongue. The number one, chosen for the second day of the night, in front of Tennys Sandgren, did not really like to find such an insipid panorama.
“But I hope that the rest of the games that I play here have an audience in the stands because, you know, they are one of the biggest reasons why I keep competing,” he continued; “It was weird, honestly, but I’m also honored to play the first men’s game at this time.”
“You couldn’t hear anything on the track, only the pigeons,” French Jo-Wilfred Tsonga described the day before, since during his pulse with Yoshihito Nishioka the spectators also had to leave their seats and go home; scene modeled on the one that happened on Sunday, when Stefanos Tsitsipas and Jérémy Chardy saw people parade in the middle of the game. Also Madison Keys and Océane Dodin at Simonne Mathieu. And this Wednesday, more. Be quiet. Medvedev-Paul was played in the sepulchral atmosphere of the Chatrier.
“It was dark, cool, not five degrees like last year, but still cool,” detailed on the Eurosport channel the Russian, number two in the ATP; “I understand that it is made for television. I’d rather play in the afternoon when it’s sunny than at night when the clay is heavy and wet. I didn’t like it ”.
Conditioned by the difficult circumstances of the present, the tournament, in an experimental phase, decided to go ahead with its initial plan for the night session, which it planned to premiere last year and could not execute because the circumstances were even more adverse. Specifically, it has scheduled evenings until the 9th, but that last night – the first within phase 3 of the de-escalation in France – the Parisian public – 5,000 people, which will increase to a maximum of 13,000 for the remaining five days, from the 35th. % to 65% – yes you will be able to witness the matches.
Meanwhile, fans will have to settle for following the day’s events on the main track via Amazon.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.