roland garros
Players take part in a warm-up session on the Simonne Mathieu court during The Roland Garros 2020 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on September 26, 2020. (Photo by Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP)

Roland Garros gets underway in chilly, damp Paris on Sunday, still in the grip of the coronavirus which organisers had hoped they would escape by unilaterally pushing back the clay court Grand Slam event by four months.

Opening day will see 2018 champion Simona Halep start her bid for a third major while 40-year-old Venus Williams kicks off her 23rd French Open.

Andy Murray takes on fellow three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka in the day’s marquee tie in a rematch of their epic 2017 semi-final duel.

However, it will be an eerily unfamiliar tournament, even for defending champion Rafael Nadal, chasing a 13th Paris title, and 2016 winner and world number one Novak Djokovic, as well as Serena Williams, pursuing an elusive 24th major.

A resurgence of Covid-19 cases means that only 1,000 spectators will be allowed into the grounds each day.

Members of staff speak in front of the general board as the ground is covered with chestnuts during The Roland Garros 2020 French Open tennis tournament in Paris. (Photo by Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP)

In 2019, more than 500,000 people watched the two-week tournament on site.

Organisers had hoped to welcome 20,000 fans a day but in the space of just a few weeks, that figure was quickly downsized to 11,500, then 5,000 before the French government slashed it to a 1,000 maximum.

‘Millions up in smoke’

“Tens of millions of euros have gone up in smoke,” said French Tennis Federation (FFT) marketing chief Stephane Morel as he mourned the loss of ticket income.

Players, meanwhile, have been confined to two tournament hotels with tight restrictions on their movements.

It’s at the hotels where they undergo Covid-19 testing, a source of controversy and recrimination in the build-up.

Last weekend, five players due to take part in men’s qualifying were stood down.

Two had tested positive while three others had been in contact with coach Petar Popovic who also tested positive.


Source: Manila Bulletin (https://mb.com.ph/2020/09/27/cold-comfort-as-roland-garros-starts-in-shadow-of-coronavirus/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cold-comfort-as-roland-garros-starts-in-shadow-of-coronavirus)