The fate of the French Open could well be decided next week in a ministerial meeting in Paris as the COVID-19 case numbers increase in the capital.
AFP reported that the rescheduled Grand Slam which switched its date from late May to a September 27 start in hopes of beating the virus chaos – masks are now required throughout Paris, indoors and out – , could find itself facing the realities of a 5,000-person limit on crowds.
The event, which drew around 520,000 spectators in 2019, refunded all original 2020 ticket monies when the sport was shut down in March. It may have to do it again after re-starting reduced ticket sales in July.
The dream – and the hope of financial salvation this year for the French federation – would require 20,000 spectators per day through the gates of Roland Garros to break even.
AFP quoted sources as saying the Paris police plan on strictly enforcing the 5,000-fan limit – at which time the entire concept of holding the event would come up for discussion.
“No exceptions” are said to be the order of the day.
The federation depends heavily on tournament takings for EUR 255 million of its EUR 325 million annual budget.
A plan to divide the tennis complex into three separate zones to beat the 5,000-person limit seems to be a non-starter.
The concept would have made the showcase Chatrier court, the secondary Lenglen court and the new Simonne-Mathieu stadium into their own little fiefdoms, with 5,000-spectators each.
Organisers may be reluctant to fall back on the plan being executed at the US Open site in New York, with zero spectators and a isolated population of around 3,000 between players, their teams, tournament officials and TV personnel.
Players are frequently tested for the virus and cannot venture out of the “bubble” between designated hotel and stadium complex..
Frenchman Nicolas Mahut, ranked third in doubles, told AFP that four weeks out players “have no news of the protocol that will be put in place at Roland Garros.
“The players are starting to be quite worried. Many say that they would like the conditions to be the same at Roland Garros (as Flushing Meadows).
“Quite frankly, I don’t see how it’s going to be possible to do the same in Paris, like creating a bubble around players by allowing audiences.”
The US Open starts Monday inside the bubble, following the “Cincinnati” Masters which wrapped up on Saturday with men’s and women’s final at the same site.
Main Photo:- New look Court Philippe Chatrier by Christophe Guibbaud FFT