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.
“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.”
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.
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.
The French move prevented some other tournaments from shifting dates and created scheduling clashes with less prestigious events already on the calendar in September and early October. The Laver Cup, Roger Federer’s team event, already has been postponed to 2021 as a consequence.
Why allow the French to cut in line?
Forget, a former top five singles player and two-time Davis Cup champion, said the French federation and its president, Bernard Giudicelli, felt the calculated risk was necessary and that negotiations would have risked losing the opportunity to move into the small window available when the weather outdoors in Paris was still conducive to playing the full tournament.
“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 enough, 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.”
Darwinian as it might seem, Forget is not alone in the view that the Grand Slam tournaments deserve priority in the rush to the lifeboats.
“Those are our tent-pole events, the ones that keep the lights on for everyone,” said Jim Courier, an American who won the French Open in 1991 and 1992 and works as a television analyst. “We need to nurture those as much as possible, but everyone needs to work together.”
The leaders of the United States Tennis Association would certainly have liked to preserve the option to shift their own Grand Slam tournament, the United States Open, especially with New York hit hard by the coronavirus.
The French federation has tried to make some amends by remaining open to negotiation on scheduling, which could allow for the postponed clay-court tour events in Madrid and Rome to be played between the U.S. Open and French Open.
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 Giudicelli 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.”
The U.S. Open, still scheduled for Aug. 31 to Sept. 13, plans to bar spectators and put players in a “bubble” to protect their health. The conditions would require frequent testing for the virus, smaller player entourages and possibly restricting player movements to travel between their accommodations and the U.S.T.A. Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Though there will be an official hotel, players have been told they could stay in nearby private accommodations as long as they adhered to the health requirements.
The U.S.T.A. will decide later this month whether to stage the Open. Government approval will be required. But player buy-in is also important, and there has been early resistance to the bubble concept from some on the ATP Player Council, which includes the men’s game’s biggest stars: Nadal, Djokovic and Federer.
The Coronavirus Outbreak
Frequently Asked Questions and Advice
Updated June 5, 2020
How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?
The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.
Will protests set off a second viral wave of coronavirus?
Mass protests against police brutality that have brought thousands of people onto the streets in cities across America are raising the specter of new coronavirus outbreaks, prompting political leaders, physicians and public health experts to warn that the crowds could cause a surge in cases. While many political leaders affirmed the right of protesters to express themselves, they urged the demonstrators to wear face masks and maintain social distancing, both to protect themselves and to prevent further community spread of the virus. Some infectious disease experts were reassured by the fact that the protests were held outdoors, saying the open air settings could mitigate the risk of transmission.
How do we start exercising again without hurting ourselves after months of lockdown?
Exercise researchers and physicians have some blunt advice for those of us aiming to return to regular exercise now: Start slowly and then rev up your workouts, also slowly. American adults tended to be about 12 percent less active after the stay-at-home mandates began in March than they were in January. But there are steps you can take to ease your way back into regular exercise safely. First, “start at no more than 50 percent of the exercise you were doing before Covid,” says Dr. Monica Rho, the chief of musculoskeletal medicine at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago. Thread in some preparatory squats, too, she advises. “When you haven’t been exercising, you lose muscle mass.” Expect some muscle twinges after these preliminary, post-lockdown sessions, especially a day or two later. But sudden or increasing pain during exercise is a clarion call to stop and return home.
My state is reopening. Is it safe to go out?
States are reopening bit by bit. This means that more public spaces are available for use and more and more businesses are being allowed to open again. The federal government is largely leaving the decision up to states, and some state leaders are leaving the decision up to local authorities. Even if you aren’t being told to stay at home, it’s still a good idea to limit trips outside and your interaction with other people.
What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?
Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.
How can I protect myself while flying?
If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)
How do I take my temperature?
Taking one’s temperature to look for signs of fever is not as easy as it sounds, as “normal” temperature numbers can vary, but generally, keep an eye out for a temperature of 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. If you don’t have a thermometer (they can be pricey these days), there are other ways to figure out if you have a fever, or are at risk of Covid-19 complications.
Should I wear a mask?
The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.
What should I do if I feel sick?
If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.
How do I get tested?
If you’re sick and you think you’ve been exposed to the new coronavirus, the C.D.C. recommends that you call your healthcare provider and explain your symptoms and fears. They will decide if you need to be tested. Keep in mind that there’s a chance — because of a lack of testing kits or because you’re asymptomatic, for instance — you won’t be able to get tested.
Djokovic said on Friday in remarks reported by Agence France-Presse that the measures were “extreme.” “We would not have access to Manhattan; we would have to sleep in hotels at the airport, to be tested twice or three times per week,” he told Serbian media. “Also we could bring one person to the club, which is really impossible. I mean, you need your coach, then a fitness trainer, then a physiotherapist.”
On Friday, Ross Hutchins, the chief tour officer of the ATP, sent a message to agents and coaches explaining that, after hearing player input, the ATP would soon give feedback to the U.S.T.A. on its plan. The proposal includes moving the Western & Southern Open, a top-tier combined men’s and women’s tournament, from the Cincinnati suburbs to New York and playing it ahead of the U.S. Open.
“Ultimately the decision on the U.S. Open lies with the U.S.T.A.,” Hutchins wrote. “However we have welcomed the continued positive discussions and collaborative approach with us in these particularly tough times.”
It will be intriguing to see if the U.S.T.A. pushes ahead if the men’s megastars make it clear they will not participate. Despite the likely loss of all ticket revenue, the Open has proposed nearly the same prize money for singles as in 2019.
“I applaud them for trying,” said Sam Duvall, president of Topnotch Management, which represents the Americans John Isner, Reilly Opelka and Alison Riske. “I do think the vast majority of players would want to do it. I would hate for a Grand Slam to not go on because a few high-profile players decide it doesn’t work for them.”
Quarantine could be an issue if players are required to spend up to 14 days self-isolating upon arrival in the United States and then again after traveling to Europe for the French Open. Under existing measures, most citizens of countries outside of the European Union are not permitted to enter France.
But Forget, like the U.S.T.A.’s leadership, knows that the landscape could look quite different come September.
“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.”
Source: Tennis - nytimes.com