Tennis heavyweights turn on each other over French Open virus controversy

Sam Goodwin
Sports Editor

US Open organisers have thrown ‘pure shade’ at their French counterparts amid major controversy around the postponement of the French Open.

In a move that stunned the tennis world, French Open organisers on Tuesday postponed the claycourt grand slam at Roland Garros from May until late September because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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The switch has placed the tournament just a week after the US Open final and results in clashes with ATP tournaments in Metz, St. Petersburg, Chengdu, Sofia and Zhuhai as well as WTA events in Guangzhou, Seoul, Tokyo and Wuhan.

It also clashes with the September 25-27 Laver Cup - partly run by Tennis Australia - an exhibition event co-created by Roger Federer which has always featured the Swiss great and one of Rafa Nadal or Novak Djokovic.

Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer at the 2015 US Open. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Laver Cup organisers said they were surprised by the move to switch Roland Garros to September 20-October 4 due to the coronavirus.

“This announcement came as a surprise to us and our partners - Tennis Australia, the USTA and the ATP. It raises many questions and we are assessing the situation,” they said in a statement .

“At this time, we want our fans, sponsors, broadcasters, staff, volunteers, players and the great city of Boston to know that we intend to hold Laver Cup 2020 as currently scheduled.”

The United States Tennis Association (USTA) also released a statement which said there were no plans to alter the schedule for the US Open and went on to blatantly criticise the French Open for making ‘unilateral changes’ to the calendar.

“At a time when the world is coming together, we recognise that such a decision should not be made unilaterally,” the statement read.

“Therefore the USTA would only do so in full consultation with the other Grand Slam tournaments, the WTA and ATP, the ITF and our partners, including the Laver Cup.”

Wimbledon organisers said they were still proceeding on the basis that the grasscourt grand slam would start on June 29, while organisers of the Australian Open are continuing to work towards the usual January start for the 2021 edition.

Players fume after being left in the dark

The men’s ATP Tour, women's WTA Tour and International Tennis Federation have yet to respond publicly to the move but players around the world have hit out at the lack of communication from the game's governing bodies.

Canadian Vasek Pospisil, a member of the ATP's Players Council, slammed the FFT decision as “selfish and arrogant", while some women's tour players posted memes on social media to voice their ire.

Former World No.1 doubles player Jamie Murray of Britain expressed his surprise at how FFT's move was handled.

“I thought the powers that be in tennis were supposed to be all about working together these days?” he said.

Rafael Nadal won another French Open title in 2019. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Argentine Diego Schwartzman, Sorana Cirstea of Romania and Russian Alla Kudryavtseva all vented their frustration at finding out about the switch from social media.

Australian Darren Cahill, who coaches former French Open champion Simona Halep, called for more coordination between tennis administrators.

“Nobody wants to see RG cancelled ... just all work together to fix a schedule that makes sense when things clear up a bit,” he said.

“Players, tournaments, majors, men and women all in a room. Now is a bit early for answers.”

ATP and WTA extend suspension amid outbreak

The ATP and WTA have now extended the suspension of their tours until June 7, the two tennis bodies said in a joint statement on Wednesday, as the coronavirus pandemic continued to shred the sporting calendar.

The clay court season “will not be held as scheduled” due to the suspension, the organising bodies of the men's and women's tours said.

“The challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic to professional tennis demand greater collaboration than ever from everyone in the tennis community,” the associations said.

“We are assessing all options related to preserving and maximising the tennis calendar.”

The tours had said last week they would suspend play until late April or early May.

The tournaments affected by the tours' suspensions include combined men's and women's events in Madrid and Rome.

Also being scrapped are upcoming WTA tournaments in Strasbourg, France, and Rabat, Morocco, along with ATP events in Munich; Estoril, Portugal; Geneva; and Lyon, France.

Both tours also said that their rankings will be frozen “until further notice.”

The International Tennis Federation also put a halt to its lower-tier events until June 7.

with agencies