The presence of thousands of fans around the grounds at Roland Garros when the French Open begins later this month has Milos Raonic worried.
The Canadian who played the final in New York at the weekend against Novak Djokovic at the “Cincinnati” Masters expressed his unease with the looming situation after winning into the second round at the quarantined US Open.
The son of scientists who has been scrupulous about mask-wearing and social isolation – he’s not had a haircut since January – is fearful that up to 20,000 fans per day at Roland Garros will make for unsafe conditions.
“The only thing that is of some concern to me is that it’s going to be 20,000 fans,” the 29-year-old said. “Unless they plan on completely shifting around the organisation of the venue, it’s hard to get to your practices, get to your matches, without crossing tens if not hundreds of people on the ground.”
French government officials are meeting this week to discuss whether to strictly enforce the national ban on gatherings of more than 5,000 people.
Tournament officials have been lobbying heavily to lift that limit.
But with Roland Garros the smallest of all four Grand Slam venues, getting up close and personal with crowds has always been part of the fortnight – it just cannot be helped, especially in the chaotic first week of play.
COVID-19 cases in the Paris area hit 7,000 per day last week but have dropped to around 3,000, according to national statistics.
But Raonic remains extremely cautious: “That is the biggest concern, especially seeing with the spikes that are going on throughout France right now.
“It’s hard to see that sort of getting nullified in four weeks’ time or however long it is before the French Open starts.”
New York is being played without spectators or media, with players still required to wear masks except on court and remain out of close contact.”