The French Open has been postponed for a week and will be played from May 30 to June 13, the second year in a row it has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
France, which has faced a third wave of coronavirus infections, entered a new national lockdown on Saturday that could last for more than a month. Non-essential shops and schools have been closed and authorities have maintained a nighttime curfew that has been in place for months.
Organizers said Thursday they hope the new dates will allow spectators to attend safely and give the public health situation more time to improve. The lockdown is expected to be lifted in mid-May, giving tournament officials around two weeks to prepare for the Grand Slam event.
“Every week is important and can make a difference,” Roland-Garros organizers said in a statement.
The two-week tournament in Paris, one of four Grand Slam events in sport, was scheduled to start on May 23 and end on June 6. It will now start on May 30 and end on June 13, just two weeks before the June 28 start of Wimbledon, which will not be delayed.
The president of the French tennis federation, Gilles Moretton, also suggested that fans could attend the event. This delay, said Moretton, “will give the health situation more time to improve and should optimize our chances of welcoming spectators to Roland Garros.”
“For the fans, the players and the atmosphere”, he added, “the presence of the spectators is vital for our tournament”,
The plan – an agreement with government officials and international tennis leaders – means that for a second year in a row, the competition will not take place as planned. And if Wimbledon will stick to its schedule, the change in France will likely result in a reshuffle of the turf tournament series that precedes it.
Last spring, organizers postponed the start of Roland Garros to the end of September, believing that the pandemic that ravaged Western Europe in the first months of 2020 would recede during the summer. The move, made with little consultation with the organizers of other tennis events, caught the sport off guard.
It also allowed several top European players, including former world No.1 Rafael Nadal, to skip the US Open, which took place in early September. Players had little time to recover from a hard court Grand Slam event and prepare for a clay court event. The move paid off for Nadal, who won a record 13th Roland Garros men’s singles title in October. Organizers limited crowds to just 1,000 spectators each day.
For months, as infection rates in France have remained stubbornly high and the European Union struggles to distribute coronavirus vaccines, Roland-Garros organizers have studied the situations to re-organize the signature event in front of a smaller crowd. Last week, however, French President Emmanuel Macron decreed a third national lockdown as the rate of coronavirus infections continued to rise, putting the tournament at risk.
Afterwards, Gilles Moretton, president of the French Tennis Federation, said if French citizens were still under restrictions next month, the organization might have to consider canceling the event.
“If we are told a general containment for two months, we will necessarily have to take action – at worst, a complete cancellation, but I dare not imagine it,” Moretton told Agence France-Presse.
Before the new lockdown, Macron had tried to keep France open, hoping that increased vaccinations would help slow the spread of the virus. Instead, with the country’s death toll from Covid-19 approaching 100,000, it has closed all but the most essential businesses, limited citizens to a six-mile radius of their homes, banned travel between regions and set a curfew from 7:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. Professional sports are still allowed, but without spectators.
Macron said he hoped to reopen the country by mid-May, which would leave organizers just a few days to prepare for the arrival of hundreds of players from dozens of countries, although many of them Would probably come from Italy after playing against the Italian. Open.
Touring tennis players have lived for months in a series of bubble-shaped contexts that each tournament has created in an attempt to prevent players and locals from spreading the virus.
At Australia’s first Grand Slam event of the year, which virtually eliminated community spread of the virus, organizers forced players arriving from overseas to a limited quarantine for two weeks before they could mingle with the rest of the population, and dozens of them found themselves in a difficult two-week quarantine, after several people tested positive upon arrival.
The restrictions have started to apply to players, who cannot travel with their regular support teams and family members and must limit their travel to their hotels and tennis venues.
“I understand the reasons for it, but from a physical and mental health point of view, I don’t know if it’s lasting,” Danielle Collins, one of America’s top players, said last week after leaving the tournament. ‘Miami Open. “It can be very difficult.”