PARIS (Reuters) – This year’s French Open has been postponed by a week due to the COVID-19 pandemic and will begin on May 30, the French Tennis Federation (FFT) said on Thursday.
The claycourt Grand Slam, which was postponed by four months last year and took place in front of limited crowds, will finish on June 13, two weeks before the expected start of Wimbledon.
The grasscourt Grand Slam said it would not change its dates following the French Open’s decision, which it supported.
“This decision has been discussed with the Grand Slam Board, and, given the exceptional circumstances, is fully supported by the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open,” Wimbledon said in a statement.
The postponement means grasscourt events scheduled to start on June 7 in s’Hertogenbosch (WTA and ATP), Stuttgart (ATP) and Nottingham (WTA) are set to clash with the second week of the claycourt major.
FFT President Gilles Moreton said it had made the decision after consulting with public authorities, the governing bodies of international tennis, and its partners and broadcasters.
It hoped the delay would let them welcome more fans on the grounds than last year, when only 1,000 were allowed at Roland Garros every day.
“It will give the health situation more time to improve and should optimise our chances of welcoming spectators at Roland-Garros …,” he added.
“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.”
The FFT had been heavily criticised for postponing last year’s tournament until the end of September without consulting the elite men’s and women’s tours, who this time have been kept in the loop.
“Both the ATP and WTA are working in consultation with all parties impacted by the postponement to optimise the calendar for players, tournaments, and fans, in the lead up to and following Roland-Garros,” the WTA and ATP said in a joint statement.
France last Saturday entered a third nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, with President Emmanuel Macron saying he was hoping to “re-open” the country around mid-May.
(Reporting by Manasi Pathak in Bengaluru and Julien Pretot; Editing by Toby Chopra/Peter Rutherford/Pritha Sarkar)