Tennis royalty including Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams will be forced to make do with mere five-star hotel suites instead of renting private flats as the French Open begins on Sunday.
Tournament officials are deep into emergency planning after the French government on Wednesday declared the capital one of several “red zones” due to exponential increases on COVID-19 infections.
As a result, the prohibition of wealthy court elite renting flats during the Grand Slam – unlike at the US Open where Djokovic and Williams both lived comfortably in private accomodation with their limited entourages – will be banned.
The event is also facing a possible cut in crowd numbers, with the current limit of 5,000 fans – it had started out as 11,500 – on any given day looking like being slashed to 1,000 – another emergency regulation laid down this week.
The question may now arise: is it even now worth it to bother with allowing in any fans, given at the Open in New York was held under strict quarantine behind closed doors with no public present.
Williams owns a luxury flat in Paris while any rental Djokovic might have paid would have been mere pocket change to the world No. 1.
But Open officials will not budge on the “no-flat” diktat.
“The position we reached to organise the tournament is an outcome of an incredible journey that began at the beginning of June,” federation boss Bernard Giudicelli told a local podcast.
“We reached the protocols set with government, we cannot change anything.”
The player hotel in question is the Pullman Eiffel Tower, where the best suite in the 430-room property goes for around USD 1,200 per night – rooms are free, of course, for tennis players with the tournament paying the bill.
Giudicelli said that enforced hotel living applies to all players – even locals who own properties in the posh neighborhood bordering Roland Garros.
“We cannot speak about Roland Garros as a bubble. But it’s a ‘corridor’ where the players are protected.
“There are many French players who have flats around Roland Garros and in Paris. But we have told them you cannot be in your own houses. If you are, then we multiply the risks to get COVID-19.
“And everybody has to know that COVID-19 is like a bullet. If you put it on someone it turns again.”
Williams, who is immune compromised due to previous illness and childbirth. had said she would speak to tournament officials about making an exception in her case – apparently without success.
Her logic: “If there are fans, then we should be able to stay elsewhere, then,” the 23-time Grand Slam champion said in New York.
“It’s interesting: there is no private housing but there are fans.
“I try to stay away from public places, because I have been in a really bad position in the hospital a few times. “I don’t want to end up in that position again,
“I’ll just do my best to continue to keep – for me, I try to keep a 12-foot (3.6 metre) distance instead of six.”