French Open director aims to avoid mistakes of ‘overconfident’ Adria Tour
Guy Forget, tournament director for the French Open, said that the errors made by the exhibition tour organized by Novak Djokovic have emphasized the need for caution in staging the Grand Slam.
The 2020 French Open was originally scheduled to take place in late May-early June but will now be played from 27 September-11 October, and Forget is hoping to avoid any repeat of the calamitous climax of the Adria Tour, which was cancelled after a player tested positive for COVID-19.
Djokovic, who organized the exhibition tour for charity, came under heavy fire after he, Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Viktor Troicki all tested positive for COVID-19, having been photographed hugging, playing football and dancing shirtless in a nightclub, among other activities which took no account of social distancing or preventive measures such as wearing masks.
Roland Garros organizers have revealed that up to 60% of the tournament’s usual spectator capacity will be allowed inside the grounds.
Around 20,000 spectators are expected each day during the fortnight, with about 10,000 per day on the final weekend.
But Forget insists that strict safety protocols will be observed.
‘Maybe some people were overconfident there,’ Forget said, referring to the Adria Tour.
‘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.’
France has had approximately 167,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with nearly 30,000 deaths. After a period of strict lockdown, restrictions were eased significantly in mid-June, with cafes and restaurants allowed to reopen and pupils returning to schools.
The French Open plans are in stark contrast to the US Open, which is scheduled to take place from 31 August-13 September in New York and will not allow any spectators.
‘We all see soccer on television, it’s wonderful but something is missing without the crowds.
‘We are working closely with the administration, the government, to make sure we can provide some crowd while still following very strict security measures.’
Forget’s spirits are unlikely to have been lifted by the news that American player Frances Tiafoe promptly tested positive for COVID-19 midway through the All-American Team Cup event, the first tennis tournament in the USA to allow spectators, and had to pull out.
Spectators were not wearing masks in Atlanta, but will be required to do so while moving around the grounds at the French Open, with mask-wearing recommended while sitting on court.
Forget implied he is hoping that restrictions will be loosened even further by the time the event comes around.
‘Luckily things are a bit more flexible in Europe and in France, especially. Hopefully, what we’re going to announce will probably be even more flexible than what we did.’
The French Open attracted much criticism when it made a unilateral grab for its September-October date without consultation with the other Grand Slams and major power brokers in tennis’s complicated structure. The late September-early October window is usually reserved for hard-court tournaments.
‘We’re not going to celebrate or congratulate ourselves for the decision we took. We thought it’s a risk worth taking. Of course we’ll make people unhappy.
‘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.’
With Roger Federer already having shut down his 2020 season after knee surgery, Forget will hope that ‘King of Clay’ Rafael Nadal, winner of an unprecedented 12 French Open titles already, heads the field alongside 2016 champion Djokovic and two-time runner-up Dominic Thiem. Current WTA world no. 1 Ashleigh Barty is the defending women’s champion.
In these most uncertain times, Forget said he will not be counting his chickens until the tournament is over.
‘I don’t want to shout “victory” before the tournament actually happens.
‘As the tournament director I’ll only be happy once the men’s winner shakes the hand of the finalist. We will all together be able to say, we did it.’