Roland-Garros: Reduced Spectators and Withdrawal of the World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty

Sport
The Philippe Chatrier central court at Roland-Garros, in Paris, May 5, 2020

The Roland-Garros tournament takes place from September 27th to October 11th. 11,500 spectators can be accommodated per day.

A hard blow for Roland-Garrosthe defending champion, world number one Ashleigh Bartywithdrew Tuesday 8th September 2020 for fear of the coronavirus, while the Paris tournament – rescheduled in the fall due to the epidemic – has had to lower the aùmount of spectators by half.

“The French Open last year was the most special tournament of my career, and it is not a decision that I took lightly,” said the 24-year-old Australian player who already waived the US Open this year, also because of the coronavirus.

“There are two reasons for my decision: the first is the health risks that still exist because of the Covid-19. The second is my preparation, which was not ideal when my coach was unable to train with me because of the border closures in Australia, ”she added.

Up to 11,500 spectators

If it has revised its ambitions downwards, the Parisian Grand Slam, rescheduled from September 27 to October 11 due to the Covid-19, will still welcome up to 11,500 spectators per day, instead of the 20,000 that He was hoping.

Since Prime Minister Jean Castex had declared that it would no longer be “possible for the prefectural authority to derogate” from the maximum level of 5000 people “in the red departments, where there is a strong viral circulation”, in particular in Ile-de-France, we wondered what would happen to Roland-Garros. Would the rule be applied to the letter or would the tournament benefit from an exceptional regime?

The logic defended by the organizers of the French lifting of the Grand Slam was retained: the 12 hectare complex in the west of Paris will be “divided” into “three sub-areas independent from each other and autonomous from the point of view of welcoming the public, ”explained the Director-General of the French Tennis Federation (FFT), Jean-François Vilotte. This will allow a maximum of 11,500 spectators per day to access it. With compulsory mask wearing even seated in the stands.

Ashleigh Barty with the Roland Garros trophy, June 8, 2019
Ashleigh Barty with the Roland Garros trophy, June 8, 2019 (© AFP / CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT)

Three “independent” sectors

The first sector, around the Philippe-Chatrier court, will accommodate a maximum of 5,000 spectators and will include the annex courts N.2, 3, 4, 5, 7 and 9.

The second will be organized around the Suzanne-Lenglen court, also with a capacity limited to 5,000 people, and the adjoining grounds of the Fonds des Princes.

The third will be limited to the Simonne-Mathieu court, nestled in the garden of the Auteuil greenhouses, with a maximum of 1,500 spectators.

Jean-François Vilotte does not, however, rule out further adjustments if the health situation deteriorates.

“These three distinct, independent and autonomous spaces will be hermetic from the point of view of flow management”, he insists. On the other hand, no public during the qualifications, nor tickets dedicated to the courts annexes.

Roland-Garros will contact ticket holders to explain the new conditions to them and “offer them the necessary arrangements according to their wishes”, specifies Vilotte, with a reimbursement if necessary.

In total, in fifteen days of competition, less than 150,000 spectators are expected. Only around a quarter of the approximately 520,000 received in 2019.

“Fantasy”

Economically, it is far from being a detail for the FFT and French tennis, very largely irrigated by Roland-Garros. Up to 80% in 2019 (255.4 M EUR out of a total budget of the FFT of 325 M EUR).

Concretely, the proceeds of the tournament will be halved, estimates its director Guy Forget, which corresponds to around 140 million euros.

And the players in all of this?

Strictly speaking, “no health bubble”, the organizers said in chorus. Like an echo of the procrastination born on the other side of the Atlantic, in the middle of the US Open behind closed doors and whose supposed bubble quickly burst. But the obligation, “without exception”, to stay in one of the “two hotels near Roland-Garros reserved (…) almost exclusively”.

“I hoped to stay in my apartment in Paris,” regretted the American Serena Williams who expressed concerns about the presence of the public. “I will make the best decision for my health,” she said. I will have to speak with the organizers to find out how it works with the public and how we will be protected. But I think it will be fine ”.

Alizé Cornet, she believes that the presence of a little public is “a good thing”. But “we really have to make the players feel safe even with people,” she warned.

Jean-François Vilotte clarified: “We do not reason like in a science fiction film, in terms of an airtight sanitary bubble, it is a fantasy (…) There is no illusion of a magical place where we would be protected from everything ”.

What we are putting in place is to absolutely minimize the risks (…). But the principle of responsibility is respect by everyone for barrier gestures, it is the only way to protect your health and the health of people you meet.

Precisely to meet less, players will only have access to the tournament site on their match days. The rest of the time, they will be confined to the courts of the Jean-Bouin club, located in the immediate vicinity of Roland-Garros.

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