Rome Masters officials are caught in a major dilemma for their rescheduled September event as the ATP asks for the clay-court draw to be expanded to 96 strong.
In addition, Italian bosses have been asked to extend the tournament by three days, only a possibility now after Madrid was forced to cancel it’s September 13 start due to a resurgence of COVID-19.
Rome, a 64-draw men’s and women’s tournament normally played in May a fortnight prior to the beginning of Roland Garros, had been due to kick off at the Foro Italico on September 20,
That date now looks subject to change – and there is a major catch which could see the project scuppered.
Italy’s cautious government has limited COVID-era gathering to less than 1,000 people, a figure which would make staging the showpiece financially impossible according to federation bureaucrats, who say 17,000 per day is a break-even budget number.
Though Rome issued a weekend decree allowing tennis players to enter the county from the US Open with a negative virus test performed up to 48 hours earlier – thereby avoiding two weeks of quarantine upon a return to Europe – that won’t be much help if the event cannot be staged due to pure economics.
If the stalemate continues, it could turn into a minimal no-fans affair or get scrapped.
“We’ll discuss it (the ATP request) following the next government decree,” federation supremo Angelo Binaghi said.
“If we are given the chance to open the tournament to fans then it’s a possibility we want to take advantage of. Otherwise, with only more costs, we won’t be able to sustain it.
“It’s a big chance to show the world how well we can organize a big tournament. The fact that Madrid is no longer being played opens a big door for us.”
So far, nothing has been said about the usual WTA component of the Rome event.
Italy, which was badly hit in the first wave of the virus last spring has now got infections under control, with the government not wanting to risk a recurrence.
Main photo Rome Masters venue Foro Italico . Photo ATP Tour