French Open promises COVID-19 caution

0
102
French Open tournament director Guy Forget

French Open organisers are taking every precaution to ensure their grand slam does not meet the same fate as Novak Djokovic’s Adria Tour, which was abandoned after several players tested positive for COVID-19, says tournament director Guy Forget.

Djokovic has come under fire after the charity event was played in front of packed crowds in Serbia and Croatia, which saw players partying and also hugging at the net while posing for pictures together.

Djokovic, Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Viktor Troicki all tested positive for COVID-19.

Read more: COVID-19: Tennis world number one Novak Djokovic tests positive

The French Open will allow up to 60 per cent of the usual capacity inside the Roland Garros grounds when the rescheduled claycourt tournament starts on September 27, and Forget said there was no chance of them repeating the mistakes of the Adria Tour.

“Maybe some people were overconfident there,” Forget said.

“Luckily no one got hurt really bad but even a few cases is too much, and we want to avoid that as much as we can.”

“We want to reassure everyone that having people getting ill will be terrible for us. Let’s be really careful, really cautious.”

Grigor Dimitrov, Novak Djokovic, Viktor Troicki and Borna Coric all tested positive for COVID-19

France began easing restrictions in May but has been reporting over 500 cases daily in recent days. Protective masks will be mandatory for anyone on the move inside Roland Garros and they will be recommended for those sitting courtside.

The French Tennis Federation (FFT) expect about 20,000 spectators a day during the early stages of the two-week tournament, and about 10,000 per day on the final weekend.

The tournament director said a successful event needed to have some kind of a crowd.

“We all see soccer on television, it’s wonderful but something is missing without the crowds,” Forget said.

“We are working closely with the administration, the government, to make sure we can provide some crowd while still following very strict security measures.”

The US Open in New York, which is scheduled to start on August 31, will have no spectators and operate under strict health protocols, including limiting the size of each player’s entourage.

Forget said French Open organisers were not planning anything as strict and were even hoping to ease restrictions.

“Luckily things are a bit more flexible in Europe and in France, especially,” he said.

The FFT drew heavy criticism in mid-March when it unilaterally moved the French Open to September from its scheduled May start amid the coronavirus crisis, placing it in the middle of the hardcourt season.

Forget said he understood why some were unhappy about it but thought saving one of the most prestigious and lucrative tournaments in tennis was worth it.

“We’re not going to celebrate or congratulate ourselves for the decision we took,” Forget added. “We thought it’s a risk worth taking.”

“But in mid-October, if we’re able to come together and we’ve been able to provide revenue for 600 people, I think we will be very satisfied as a federation and I as a former player.”

 

Chidi Nwoke.