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Tennis News • French Open Postponed Until September As COVID-19 Crisis Worsens

By Alix Ramsay

The good news is that the French Open will still go ahead despite the Covid-19 pandemic. The bad news is that it will start just seven days after the end of the US Open.

On Tuesday, the French Tennis Federation (FFT) announced that they were moving the dates of their grand slam in order to get it completed in this calendar year. The timing may not be perfect – not by any means – but at least Roland Garros will produce champions for 2020.

Originally scheduled to run from May 24 to June 7, the tournament will now be held from September 20 to October 4. The US Open men’s final will be held on Sunday, September 13.

Trying to shoehorn any new event into an already packed calendar is all but impossible but moving a 15-day grand slam with all its various competitions of men’s and women’s singles and doubles, mixed doubles, juniors, wheelchairs and legends not to mention the qualifying tournaments, is a task of Herculean proportions.

It means that the French Open will now occupy the weeks originally allotted to Metz, St. Petersburg, the Laver Cup, Chengdu, Sofia and Zhuhai for the men and Tokyo, Seoul, Guangzhou, Wuhan and the beginning of Beijing for the women.

“Though nobody is able to predict what the situation will be on 18th May, the current confinement measures have made it impossible for us to continue with our preparations and, as a result, we are unable to hold the tournament on the dates originally planned,” the FFT’s statement read.

“In order to act responsibly and protect the health of its employees, service providers and suppliers during the organisation period, the FFT has chosen the only option that will allow them to maintain the 2020 edition of the tournament while joining the fight against COVID-19.

“At this important period in its history, and since the progress of the stadium modernisation means the tournament can be held at this time, the FFT was keen to maintain the 2020 tournament. Therefore, this year’s Roland-Garros will be held from 20th September to 4th October. 

“This decision was made in the interest of both the community of professional tennis players, whose 2020 season has already been compromised, and of the many fans of tennis and Roland-Garros.”

Bernard Giudicelli, president of the FFT, added: “We have made a difficult yet brave decision in this unprecedented situation, which has evolved greatly since last weekend. We are acting responsibly, and must work together in the fight to ensure everybody’s health and safety.”

As of midday on Tuesday, March 17, all French citizens were told to remain in their homes for the next 15 days. It was the most draconian of Emmanuel Macron’s measures to halt the spread of Covid-19 as he declared that France was “at war” with the virus.

All bars, restaurants and non-essential shops have been closed since Saturday and the country’s borders would be closed to all but returning French nationals from Tuesday. Anyone found flouting the ban will be punished and the only people allowed to leave their homes are those travelling for vital professional or health reasons. All schools and universities were closed on Monday.

To date, France has reported 6,633 cases of the virus, 75 of them fatal. But the spread of the disease has gathered pace in recent days with experts now claiming the number of cases is doubling every three days.

As the FFT were making their announcement, the leaders of the European Union were meeting to discuss the closing of the bloc’s borders to all except EU nationals. The lockdown, if approved, will last for 30 days but could be extended if needs be. The idea is to close Europe’s perimeter borders in order to keep the internal borders open. But of the 26 countries within that perimeter border, 21 have already imposed their own border restrictions as each country tries to contain the spread of the disease.

In such dire circumstances, the timing of a tennis tournament – however big and prestigious – was least of anyone’s concerns.

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