We all know about the mess the world is in. Coronavirus, COVID-19, has changed life and every aspect and corner of society has been tragically, sadly and frustratingly affected. You wonder when it is going to end. The enduring lock downs and the self-isolation which has become the catch cry these days.
Sport, a lifeblood of society, has been butchered and it is not recognisable the way we all know it. Events being cancelled left, right and centre. Tennis like every other sport has been suspended. I say every other sport but crazily in Australia the Aussie Rules and the rugby league football are being played, albeit in front of empty stadiums.
The tennis world was certainly shocked when the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells was cancelled, and it was soon followed by the Miami Open. Certainly, we all knew coronavirus was bad and incredibly serious and very, very concerning but it hit home for tennis when those events were cancelled. I was on my way to the airport heading to Indian Wells when I got a message to say don’t get on the plane, so I turned around and went home.
Amusingly I did not unpack thinking I would just take the same luggage to Miami as I had enough other clothes at home to be able to use. Eventually the luggage was removed from the hallway and unpacked. I was frustrated but to some degree sarcastically amused. I don’t remember the last time I was in Australia the whole of March and into April. I thought I would take a couple of quick trips, maybe domestically, maybe New Zealand, possibly Singapore.
In quick succession the thoughts all collapsed, and I resigned myself to looking ahead to the French Open. Paris in spring is something to look forward to and the newly completed refurbished Court Philippe Chatrier with its new retractable roof, would be making its debut. Roland Garros was the incentive.
Then came the email from the FFT explaining that the shut down of France and the heavy current confinement measures made it impossible for preparations at the year’s second major to continue and the scheduled dates of 24 May to 7 June were going to be out of reach. The Federation took the unprecedented direction of protecting their prized possession and upgraded facility and lay claim to new dates 20 September to 4 October.
The Federation said with the new facilities it is very feasible to play the tournament at this time of the year. Fed Cup and Davis Cup ties have been played at Roland Garros in September.
The FFT explained the decision was made in the interest of both the community of professional tennis players, whose 2020 season has already been compromised, and of the many fans of tennis and Roland Garros.
Bernard Giudicelli, President of the FFT said : “We have made a difficult yet brave decision in this UNPRECEDENTED situation, which has evolved greatly since last weekend. We are acting responsibly, and must work together in the fight to ensure everybody’s health and safety.”
From the end of the US Open to the start of the French Open there are only six days and it is going to be very difficult for any player to play on two vastly different surfaces and on two continents a week apart. Two of those players who will be patricularly affected with be the respective defending champions, Rafa Nadal, who is also the US Open defending champion, and Ash Barty.
And while it will be awkward, let’s not forget these people are professionals and will handle the situation the best they can. They are not going to pass up the chance to win a major, earn the big bucks and claim the highest number of ranking points. It’s going to be very interesting.