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French Open could take place behind closed doors

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Spaniard Rafael Nadal hoists the Roland Garros trophy after his victory in Paris last year. AFP

French Open could take place behind closed doors

French tennis chief Bernard Guidicelli on Sunday admitted that Roland Garros, already controversially pushed back four months due to the coronavirus, could be staged behind closed doors.

Guidicelli, who said that the French federation (FFT) had “no regrets” over its unilateral decision to move the clay court Grand Slam from May 24-June 7 to September 20-October 4, insisted all options remain 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.”

The spread of the coronavirus has halted all tennis since mid-March and will not resume until July 13 at the earliest.

Wimbledon has already been cancelled for the first time since the Second World War.

The US Open, due to take place in New York between August 31 and September 13, is also in question with a decision expected in mid-June.

Close to 500,000 fans regularly attend Roland Garros every year.

However, an indication as to the thinking around the 2020 edition came on Thursday when the FFT decided to reimburse all tickets bought for the original date of the tournament rather than transfer them.

Guidicelli admitted that the start of the rescheduled French Open could even be pushed back a further week to begin on September 27.

That would allow a two-week break between the US Open and Roland Garros.

“I have regular discussions with [ATP president] Andrea Gaudenzi, [WTA president] Steve Simon and [ITF head] David Haggerty and another call is planned next week to see how we have progressed.

“We are working well together, but it is still a bit early to precisely determine the schedule.”

Guidicelli is adamant that the FFT was right to shift the tournament back by four months with the death toll from the coronavirus in France standing at 26,310 by Saturday night.

“Roland Garros is the driving force of tennis in France, it is what feeds the players in our ecosystem [€260 million ($280 million) in revenue, or 80 per cent of the FFT’s turnover],” added Guidicelli, describing himself as the “good father”.

“We think of them first, protecting them. We made a courageous choice and today, no one regrets it.”

“A tournament without a date is a boat without a rudder – we don’t know where we’re going.

“We positioned ourselves as far in the calendar as possible, anxious not to harm major events, so that no Masters 1000 or any Grand Slam would be affected.

“The turn of events seems to have proved us right,” Guidicelli said.

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