French Open officials on Thursday officially pulled the trigger on a one-week postponement, opening up a scheduling can of worms for the summer grass season to follow.
The worst-kept secret in tennis was revealed as the Grand Slam made a date change for the second edition in a row, moving the start of main draw play to May 30 and ending on June 13.
Qualifying rounds are now due to start on Monday May 24.
In 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the major unilaterally declared it would be staged in October, a stunt which was pulled off successfully with only 1,000 fans in the stands per day due to government virus restrictions.
This year’s move might create many more knock-on effects, especially for ATP and WTA events squeezed into a one-month grasscourt window between the end of Paris and the start of Wimbledon on 28 June.
Left as orphans by the French move will be the ATP Stuttgart tournament as well as a new WTA competition in Berlin. There are also the grass outings in Halle and Eastbourne who will be affected, among others.
While the ATP and WTA quickly issued a soothing statement to try and paper over the obvious cracks, the scheduling mess will likely require a complicated clean-up.
New French federation boss Gillles Moretton had been dropping hints of the move for days.
He confirmed the decision on Thursday:
“I am delighted that the discussions with the public authorities, the governing bodies of international tennis, our partners and broadcasters, and the ongoing work with the WTA and ATP, have made it possible for us to postpone the 2021 Roland-Garros tournament by a week.
I thank them for this. It will give the health situation more time to improve and should optimise our chances of welcoming spectators at Roland-Garros.
“For the fans, the players and the atmosphere, the presence of spectators is vital for our tournament, the spring’s most important international sporting event.”
All of France – with an emphasis on Paris – is now under lockdown expected to last into mid-May making tournament planning complex and limiting organiser options regarding the sale of tickets.
Last year’s to-and-fro over the tournament public health requirements resulted in several rounds of costly ticket refunds.