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Coronavirus Fallout: What the French Open rejig means for players

This year’s French Open has been moved from its usual spot, in at the end of May to a week after the US Open. It’s a move that has not gone down well with the players who have been reeling because of an already altered calendar year.

Written by Shahid Judge | Mumbai | Updated: March 26, 2020 9:25:59 am
The French Open has been postponed from its usual spot at the end of May as France grapples with the coronavirus pandemic. (File Photo)

The Fédération Française de Tennis made the unexpected decision of postponing this year’s French Open from its usual spot, in at the end of May to a week after the US Open. It’s a move that has not gone down well with the players who have been reeling because of an already altered calendar year. The Indian Express looks at why this move has left the players concerned.

Why has the French Open been pushed back to September?

The ATP and WTA tours have been suspended for a period of six weeks because of the outbreak of the coronavirus. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently declared Europe as the new epicentre of the pandemic, putting the clay season, which starts in April and ends with the French Open on June 7, in doubt. As a result, the organisers at Roland Garros took the decision to shift the event to September.

Why are the players upset at the change?

The proximity of the US Open to the new dates of the French Open has been the main concern. The main draw of the French Open will start on September 20, which is just a week after the US Open men’s final that will take place on September 13. In the week between the two majors is the qualification round for the French Open and also Group 1 and 2 Davis Cup ties.

READ | Why the French Open being postponed has come as such a surprise

This rescheduling of one of the four majors of the year causes disruption to the players’ individual schedules, which have already been affected by the suspension of the tour due to the coronavirus outbreak.

One of the tournaments clashing with the new dates is the Laver Cup, of which 12-time French Open Rafael Nadal has been a keen participant, and a Premier 5-WTA event in Wuhan. Furthermore, the players were allegedly not informed about the decision to shift the elite event until after the change was made.

“These are really rough times, unprecedented times, and this just goes against the whole idea of the tour working together. We have a calendar. We have discussions and negotiations between the Grand Slams and the ATP. We are always trying to make it work for everybody, and they just haven’t consulted the ATP, the players or the other tournaments. It’s just a very selfish move. They are basically doing a power play right now, and it’s quite arrogant,” Canadian player Vasek Pospisil, who is a part of the Players’ Council told The New York Times.

Why does the close proximity to the US Open matter?

Players do not get much time to physically recover for the French Open, especially those who reach the latter stages of the US Open. Also, since Roland Garros will now be scheduled in the middle of the hard court season, players will not have the option of playing in clay-court events to warm-up for the major.

Why does the French Open need a clay court season build up?

Usually, the clay-court season lasts for two months, ending with the French Open. The surface plays much different from the hard and grass courts, in that the ball drops in pace when it hits the surface and bounces higher, making for longer rallies.

What players, however, try to get used to during the clay-court swing is sliding on court. It is very difficult to come to an immediate stop on a clay court, so players slide to a halt. They rush to the ball, stop running a few meters short and play their stroke on the slide. This is different from the hardcourt where players have to run to the exact spot to meet a ball since sliding is not easy on hard courts.

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