New French Open dates create major clash

Julien Pretot
The French Open has become the first grand slam delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak

The organisers of the French Open have postponed the claycourt Grand Slam tournament until Sept 20-October 4 from its May start amid the coronavirus outbreak, with the new dates colliding with numerous events on the scheduled global calendar.

The French Open, the first major tournament to be hit by the spread of the coronavirus, had been initially scheduled to be played from May 24-June 7 at Roland Garros, but instead will now start just a week after the final of the US Open.

"In order to guarantee the health and safety of all those involved in the preparation of the tournament, the French Tennis Federation decided to organise the 2020 edition of Roland-Garros from 20 September to 4 October 2020," the French tennis federation (FFT) said in a statement on Tuesday.

"While no one today can predict what the health situation will be like on May 18 (when qualifications were due to start), the lockdown measures in force make it impossible to prepare for it and therefore to organise it on the dates initially planned."

The men's ATP Tour had previously announced a six-week suspension due to the pandemic that has ground global sport to a halt while the WTA, which runs the women's tournaments, had postponed events till May 2.

The International Tennis Federation has also suspended all its events, including next month's newly-launched Fed Cup finals in Budapest.

The new French Open dates mean that action at Roland Garros will begin seven days after US Open concludes on September 13.

This will leave players contesting a claycourt major right in the middle of what is traditionally the hardcourt swing of the tennis season and with almost no opportunity to play any warm-up events on the slow surface.

The grand slam will also clash with the previously scheduled Laver Cup, which is a team event featuring the best of Europe against a World team and has previously drawn top players such as Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal. Federer has already confirmed his participation for the fourth edition in Boston this year.

It will also clash with ATP tournaments in Metz, St. Petersburg, Chengdu, Sofia and Zhuhai and WTA events in Guangzhou, Seoul, Tokyo and Wuhan.

The decision of the FFT did not seem to have gone down well with the players.

"Excusez moi???," said two-time grand slam winner Naomi Osaka on Twitter.

Argentine Diego Schwartzman also vented his frustration in a Spanish tweet: "Once again, we found out on Twitter."

"This is madness. Major announcement by Roland Garros changing the dates to one week after the U.S. Open. No communication with the players or the ATP.. we have ZERO say in this sport. It's time. #UniteThePlayers," said Vasek Pospisil, who sits on the ATP players council.

The ATP, WTA or the ITF did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters.