Roger Federer clashes with Nadal and Djokovic over virus plan

Sam Goodwin
Sports Editor
Roger Federer has disagreed with Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. Image: Getty

Roger Federer has dismissed the idea of playing without fans once the tennis tours get back underway following the coronavirus crisis.

While Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have both supported the idea of playing in empty stadiums, Federer says he hopes it doesn’t happen.

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“I can’t imagine competing in an empty stadium, I don’t succeed and I hope it never happens,” he said during a video call with Brazilian legend Gustavo Kuerten.

“As much as when we train there are no people, competing is very different.

“It is clear that the possibility is feasible. But I think we could wait for the appropriate moment to return in the best conditions, with at least a third of the stadium full or half in.

“It would be very difficult for me to play major tournaments behind closed doors.”

The rescheduled French Open - originally supposed to start on Sunday - could be stage behind closed doors whether Federer likes it or not.

French tennis chief Bernard Guidicelli recently admitted all options are still on the table.

“We haven't ruled out any option. Roland Garros is first and foremost a story of matches and players,” he told the Journal du Dimanche.

“There is the tournament taking place in the stadium, and the tournament on TV screens.

“Millions of viewers around the world are waiting. Organising it behind closed doors would allow part of the business model - television rights (which account for more than a third of the tournament's revenues) - to go ahead.

“This cannot be overlooked.”

French Open was supposed to start Sunday

French Open director Guy Forget said he was working with tennis authorities to make sure the dates of the clay court grand slam tournament and those of the US Open do not clash.

The French Open had originally been due to start on Sunday, but the coronavirus crisis forced organisers to postpone the start to September 20, one week after the scheduled final of the US Open, leading to criticism within the tennis world.

Earlier this month, the French tennis federation said it was in talks with the ATP, WTA and the International Tennis Federation (ITF) over a revised calendar for the season.

“The official announcement has not been made yet. It (the French Open) will probably be between the end of September and the beginning of October,” Forget told French radio Europe 1 on Saturday.

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal at the 2019 Laver Cup. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images for Laver Cup)

“We've been working closely with the ATP, the WTA and the ITF to make a global announcement on what the circuit will be like until the end of the year.

“There are so many question marks. The city of New York is more affected by the coronavirus than France.

“They also have a lot of organisation problems, they will make an announcement mid-June to say how it's going to be like for the U.S. Open.”

Meanwhile, Forget is confident the French Open - whose women's singles title was won last year by Australia's world No.1 Ashleigh Barty - will be played in good conditions.

“We'll see how the situation is in a couple of months. We will adapt to what the government will say. We have to be ambitious and optimistic,” he said.

France has banned events involving 5000 or more people until the end of August.

with AAP