Roland-Garros: reduced gauge and withdrawal of the world No. 1 for fear of the Covid

It’s a blow for Roland-Garros: the defending champion, world number one Ashleigh Barty, withdrew this Tuesday, September 8 for fear of the coronavirus, while the Paris tournament – rescheduled in the fall due to the epidemic – set to start September 27.

“Last year’s French Open was the most special tournament of my career, and it wasn’t a decision I took lightly”, justified the 24-year-old Australian player who has already given up on the US Open this year, also because of the coronavirus.

“There are two reasons for my decision: the first is the health risks that still exist because of the Covid. The second is my preparation, which was not ideal as my coach was unable to train with me because of the border closures in Australia. “Confined sport: “Let us not forget that the Olympics were interrupted for 1500 years …”

If he has revised his ambitions downwards, the Parisian Grand Slam will still welcome up to 11,500 spectators per day, instead of the 20,000 he hoped for.

Since Prime Minister Jean Castex declared that he would not “No longer possible for the prefectural authority to derogate” to the maximum tonnage of 5,000 people “In the red departments, where there is a strong viral circulation”, especially in Ile-de-France, we wondered what would happen to Roland-Garros. Would the rule be applied to the letter or would the tournament benefit from an exceptional regime?

“Three distinct spaces”

The logic defended by the organizers of the French lifting of the Grand Slam was retained: the 12 hectare complex in the west of Paris will be ” Split “ in “Three independent sub-spaces from each other and autonomous from the point of view of public reception”, detailed the director general of the French Tennis Federation (FFT), Jean-François Vilotte. This will allow a maximum of 11,500 spectators per day to access it. Wearing a mask is compulsory even when seated in the stands.

The first sector, around the Philippe-Chatrier court, will accommodate a maximum of 5,000 spectators and will include the annex courts N. 2, 3, 4, 5, 7 and 9. The second will be organized around the Suzanne-Lenglen court, with a gauge also limited to 5,000 people, and the land annexed to the Fonds des Princes. The third will be limited to the Simonne-Mathieu court, nestled in the garden of the Auteuil greenhouses, with a maximum of 1,500 spectators.

Roland-Garros: the stands, mirror of the social divide

Vilotte does not, however, rule out further adjustments if the health situation deteriorates. “These three distinct, independent and autonomous spaces will be hermetic from the point of view of flow management”, he insists. On the other hand, no public during the qualifications, nor tickets dedicated to the courts annexes. Roland-Garros will contact ticket holders to explain the new conditions and “Offer them the necessary arrangements according to their wishes”, specifies Vilotte, with reimbursement if necessary.

Serena Williams worried

In total, in fifteen days of competition, less than 150,000 spectators are expected. This is only a quarter of the approximately 520,000 received in 2019.

Economically, it is far from being a detail for the FFT and French tennis, very largely irrigated by Roland-Garros. Up to 80% in 2019 (255.4 million euros out of a total FFT budget of 325 million). Concretely, the proceeds of the tournament will be halved, estimates its director Guy Forget, which corresponds to around 140 million euros.

“No bubble” health strictly speaking, said the organizers in unison. Like an echo of the procrastination born on the other side of the Atlantic, in the middle of the US Open behind closed doors and whose so-called bubble quickly burst. But the obligation, ” without exception “, to stay in one of the “Two hotels near Roland-Garros reserved […] almost exclusively “.

“I was hoping to stay in my apartment in Paris”, regretted the American Serena Williams, who expressed concerns about the presence of the public. “I will make the best decision for my health”, she said.

“I will have to speak with the organizers to find out how it works with the public and how we will be protected. But I think it will be fine. “

“Minimize the risks”

Alizé Cornet, she believes that the presence of a little public is ” a good thing “. But “We really have to make the players feel safe even with people”, she warned.

Jean-François Vilotte clarified: “We don’t reason like in a science fiction film, in terms of an airtight health bubble, it’s a fantasy. […] There is no illusion of a magical place where we would be protected from everything ”.

“What we are putting in place is to absolutely minimize the risks […]. But the principle of responsibility is respect by everyone for barrier gestures, it is the only way to protect your health and the health of people you meet. “

Precisely to meet less, players will only have access to the tournament site on their match days. The rest of the time, they will be confined to the courts of the Jean-Bouin club, located in the immediate vicinity of Roland-Garros.

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