The French Tennis Federation (FFT) announced on Thursday that the French Open will be postponed by one week in 2021, with first-round action now starting on May 30. The tournament will end on June 13.
The delay is to accommodate the latest national COVID-19 lockdown in France, which began April 3 amid a surge in ICU admissions. The target to reopen the country is mid-May, and postponing by a week could allow for more fans to attend the tournament.
"It will give the health situation more time to improve and should optimize our chances of welcoming spectators at Roland-Garros," FFT president Gilles Moreton said in a statement via ESPN. "For the fans, the players and the atmosphere, the presence of spectators is vital for our tournament, the spring's most important international sporting event."
Last year only 1,000 fans were allowed to watch the French Open in person. The tournament had also been postponed four months, until the end of September, due to COVID-19. The ATP and WTA had not been informed of that decision before it was made, but Moreton said that this year the FFT worked with local authorities, the WTA, ATP, and their broadcasters to make the decision.
Shortened grass court season
The biggest issue with the postponement is that it shortens the window between the end of the French Open and the start of Wimbledon by one week. That window is grass court season, with Wimbledon being the premier grass court tournament and the only Grand Slam played on grass.
The Grand Slam Board released a statement Thursday that supported the FFT's decision to delay Roland-Garros, and also announced that grass court season would officially be shortened by one week in 2021, lasting two weeks instead of three.
The grass court season window between Roland-Garros and Wimbledon wasn't always three weeks. It was two weeks until 2015, when another week was added. Since then, several grass court tournaments have popped up. With the season shortened by one week this year, it's possible that grass court tournaments that start in early June — the Stuttgart Open and the Nottingham Open — may have to cancel.
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