On Wednesday, the French Tennis Federation announced that the French Open was to be moved to September, one week after the US Open. The tournament was due to be held from 18th May.
The Federation made a unilateral decision on this. No discussion with players or any other tennis sports bodies who were, understandably, aggrieved.
The decision meant clashes with many minor tournaments and, more significantly, the hugely popular Laver Cup, a much-cherished event by top players such as Federer, Nadal, Shapovalov and Krygios. A French Open players’ boycott looked to be a distinct possibility. Both events would end up being the poorer.
Canadian player, Vasek Pospisil called the decision “selfish and arrogant”. Britain’s Jamie Murray tweeted: “I thought the powers that be in tennis were supposed to be all about working together these days?”
This has played havoc with the scheduling. It’s going to be very strange for the French Open to be held directly after the US Open, a completely different surface, which will be a hugely problematic adjustment for the players. Normally there are warm up events on the
same surface, prior to each Slam, to allow for such an adjustment.
Clay court specialists, such as Nadal and, indeed, most of the other Spanish players, will no doubt take the decision to skip the US Open in order to train on the European clay beforehand rather than race back across the Atlantic with no real preparation. But how does this all affect the rankings? Surely players making such a decision should not be penalised. It would also deny them the possibility of winning the US Grand Slam or significant prize money even in the early rounds.
It was, however, understandable that the FFT made such a decision, since the lockdown means that it would be virtually impossible for the organisers to prepare for the tournament. It’s also vital to protect the health of the players, particularly in view of the fact that they are constantly travelling around the world to and from tournaments. No-one wants to pass through airports for the foreseeable future.
Yesterday, it was announced that all ATP and WTA tournaments have been cancelled until June 7th. Turns out that the French Federation were ahead of the game.
So the entire clay court season has been axed, along with the rest of sports events round the world. Not only are we to self-isolate, but we won’t even get a chance to be armchair sports players, let alone physically practise our sports. I imagine that we will finally emerge from our homes, a depressed nation of ‘fatties’.
Everyone in the game is holding their breath with regards to Wimbledon. Perhaps the tournament will be postponed until late summer while grass court tennis still remains a possibility.
But spare a thought, also, for loss of earnings for players, particularly the lower-ranked ones who barely scrape a living as it is. Also, the travelling band on the circuit, of coaches, physios, officials etc. and tournaments which don’t have insurance cover for a
massive loss in revenue.
Some might say “Oh it’s only sport. There are more important issues to think about right now.” But watching sport brings huge joy and excitement for an enormous number of people. And practising sport nourishes the soul as well as the body. It also encourages social interaction.
At least spring and summer will still go ahead, good news for those with some outside space…thank god I have a terrace.
By Katrina Allen