Tennis stars facing legal action over French Open controversy

Chris Young
Sports Reporter
Ash Barty reacts after winning the 2019 French Open. (Photo by Mehdi Taamallah/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The controversial decision to move the French Open to late September as a result of the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic could result in unintended legal consequences for players.

The French Tennis Federation announced the move earlier in March, to the shock of tennis bodies across the globe.

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Now slated to start just one week after the US Open final is scheduled and in conflict with the Laver Cup, the French Open’s new date left the ATP and WTA blindsided when it was announced.

The decision came as such a shock that former Australian pro Sam Groth suggested it was a bid to ice the popular Laver Cup, which was first hosted by Roger Federer three years ago.

A complicated legal discussion has arisen since it was confirmed that the French Tennis Association (FTT) acted on their own in re-scheduling the grand slam.

According to ESPN, sources in the International Tennis Federation believe the ATP and WTA could be liable for breach of contract and sued for damaging the the four Grand Slam tournaments if players opt to play at other tournaments - for example, skipping the rescheduled French Open in favour of the Laver Cup.

The FTT decision to go it alone in re-scheduling the French Open was met with significant criticism from players and administrators alike.

World no.93 and ATP Player Council member Vasek Pospisil said the FTT decision went against the camaraderie required on all fronts as the sport confronts the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is such a difficult time,” the Canadian star wrote on Twitter.

“Everyone is being impacted by this catastrophe.

“Enhancing communication & working together to find solutions should be the priority.

“Not going rogue & making selfish/arrogant decisions to further impact the tour in a negative way.”

French Open move slammed by players, officials

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.”