Roland Garros: Had It Not Been For The Pandemic …

WASHINGTON, June 8, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

As New York Times tennis correspondent Christopher Clarey, who has artfully covered the Grand Slams for nearly three decades, wrote on Twitter over the weekend: “If not for the pandemic, this weekend would have been the climax of another French Open but the French are increasingly confident that their Grand Slam will happen later in 2020 and they still feel their unilateral land grab was the right move.”

Clarey penned “The French Cut the Tennis Tournament Line. And They Are Not Sorry.” It posted on the newspaper’s website Saturday morning and began:

The men’s singles final at the French Open was supposed to be Sunday, with fans sporting Panama hats, players sliding on the red clay and a new retractable roof overhead that, given Sunday’s fine forecast, would most likely have remained open.

But that plan was made before the tennis schedule, like so many others in sports, was disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

The rebuilt center court at Roland Garros will be quiet instead of boisterous.

No Rafael Nadal, the 12-time French Open men’s singles champion. No Novak Djokovic, the world’s No. 1 player. No Guy Forget, the French Open tournament director who, like his French compatriots, is just emerging from lockdown as the country slowly reopens.

Clarey quotes Forget extensively in his article:

“Things are getting more flexible now and a bit less strict,” Forget said in a telephone interview this week. “We want to be optimistic with the understanding that things have been so crazy in the last few weeks and months that you never know what is going to happen. So we have to stay very careful and very humble.”

Clarey doesn’t spare any punches when he writes: “Humility was an issue when the leaders of the French Tennis Federation postponed the French Open until late September without seeking approval from tennis’s other governing bodies, including the men’s and women’s tours.”

“We knew it would make a lot of waves, but looking back it was the right decision,” Forget said. “I know it can be perceived by some people in a selfish way. Funny though, I have read comments from players who said, ‘How can they do this or do that?’ But in the end the players are the ones who are suffering and the ones who have to pay their bills, and basically we are trying to put in the best prize money possible, and they will benefit from it as well.”

As Clarey explains: “The unilateral decision was a tennis land grab born of desperation. The French Open, one of the four Grand Slam tournaments, provides the French federation, which largely finances the game in France, with about 80 percent of its annual revenue. But it was also a land grab perceived as selfish because so many other federations and tournaments are in dire financial positions, too.”

There is no guarantee, of course, that the French Open can be played in its new dates: most likely Sept. 27 to Oct. 11, with the qualifying event starting on Sept. 21. A resurgence in coronavirus cases could force another shutdown in France or continue to block players from traveling.

But the French government is supportive, and because the majority of men’s and women’s players are European, travel could be simplified. If the public health situation continues to stabilize, Forget and (Bernard) Giudicelli (FFT president) are optimistic their tournament will take place with some spectators, at least on the main show courts.

“It could be one every three seats,” Forget said. “Playing behind closed doors is really not something we would like to have.”

Clarey saves the last word for Forget: “Hopefully by the end of the year we can all have a glass of Champagne and say, ‘Phew, it was close but we have managed to save quite a few big tournaments,’” Forget said. “It’s really important the U.S. Open happens, and it’s really important Roland Garros happens.”

Region of Valencia Tennis Challenge – Day Three 

Rain and hail washed out the final day of the Region of Valencia Tennis Challenge at Cumbre del Sol in Alicante, Spain, on Sunday.

World No. 12 Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain and No. 26 Alex de Minaur from Australia, who trains part of the year in Alicante, had been on court for only four minutes when rain and hail began pelting the red clay court during the second game of the opening set. Both players were called to the sidelines and soon left the court toting their equipment bags slung over their shoulders, with de Minaur up a break 1-0 and serving 40-30. They played a total of nine points.

What tournament officials initially though would be a passing storm turned in a heavy downpour and, unfortunately, there was no tarp covering the court throughout the delay. After waiting nearly four and one-half hours, tournament officials cancelled Sunday’s matches due to the adverse weather conditions.

Both Bautista Agut and de Minaur finished the exhibition tournament with identical 2-0 win-loss records. The second match was to have pitted Spaniards Pablo Carreño Busta, ranked 25th, and No. 53 Pablo Andjuar, both 0-2.

Game.Set.Chat! – Candid conversations 

Game.Set.Chat! is a weekly series of candid conversations at a distance that is the brainchild of African American tennis trailblazers Zina Garrison and Chanda Rubin. Garrison, a singles finalist at Wimbledon in 1990, was a three-time Grand Slam mixed doubles champion and won a women’s doubles gold medal at the 1988 Olympic Games. Rubin reached a career-high No. 6 in singles and No. 9 in doubles and won the 1996 Australian Open with Arantxa Sanchez Vicario. She is a Tennis Channel analyst.

On Saturday, Garrison and Rubin hosted a special edition town hall of Game.Set.Chat! with tennis broadcaster Andrew Krasny, former pro James Blake, Los Angeles Times sports and culture columnist LZ Granderson, tennis coach Kamau Murray and tennis Hall of Famer Billie Jean King on the state of American and “how we can all come together for change.”

Mary Pierce – Twenty years ago …

Twenty years ago, Mary Pierce won the 2000 French Open women’s singles title for her second major crown.

The Way Back Machine – Roger Federer, Roland Garros  2009

On June 7, 2009, Roger Federer defeated Robin Söderling to win the 2009 French Open singles title and achieve a career Grand Slam.

What they’re writing 

Joel Drucker, Tennis.com writer and tennis historian, from “New Timing For Roland Garros Could Mean New Conditions and Challenges”:

With Roland Garros now planning to begin in late September, there are a number of factors related to seasonal climate and conditions that pose new implications.

That the tournament is played on clay makes the environment-tennis connection even more significant than if it were played on a hard court, potentially affecting everything from how the courts play, to how the ball looks, to fitness and scheduling.

What they’re sharing on social media

Karolina Pliskova / We all have been through a difficult time full of fear and uncertainty.

On Saturday, Karolina Pliskova won the LiveScore Cup over Tereza Martincova, 6-2, 6-4, on clay in Prague.

Johanna Konta / Full tie-dye commitment …

Stefanos Tsitsipas / Hoodie mood in Cannes …

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Grainy days. #ShotOniPhone

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