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"Not ideal": Grass and lead-up clay events react to French Open delay
The French Tennis Federation's (FFT) decision to delay Roland Garros by a week has affected the ATP and WTA tournaments scheduled around it, as they are divided on whether to stay on the same date as originally scheduled or shift weeks.
Published Apr 09, 2021
The French Tennis Federation's (FFT) decision to delay Roland Garros by a week has affected the ATP and WTA tournaments scheduled around it, but they still plan to proceed with their events.
Yet the smaller tournaments are divided on whether to stay on the same date as originally scheduled, or shift along with the French Open.
The ATP 250 event in Stuttgart, the combined ATP and WTA 250 in 's-Hertogenbosch and the WTA 250 in Nottingham are all scheduled in what would have been the week following the French Open, but now find themselves set to be played during the second week of the Grand Slam event.
Stuttgart is not changing its plans. "We will not move away from the date for Stuttgart," said Edwin Weindorfer, the tournament director, adding that "during the coming days" there would be further discussions with sponsors, players and the tour.
Weindorfer, unhappy with the French Open announcement, described himself as "surprised" and called it a "single-handed" decision by the FFT that was imposed on the ATP Tour. Though the development was "not ideal," he said his event would have to move forward within the new schedule.
Marcel Hunze, the tournament director of 's-Hertogenbosch's ATP and WTA competitions, agreed.
''It is not ideal, but it is what it is. We are now in consultation with the ATP and WTA to see what the possibilities are," he said.
But in contrast with Stuttgart, Hunze would like to move the event, saying, "That would be great, but all scenarios are open, so I cannot say more about it. We will probably get more clarity next week."
The LTA, which runs Nottingham and the other British grass courts events leading up to Wimbledon, noted there would be a "knock-on effect" for the season. "We are currently looking at the implications for our events," said a statement.
The Roland Garros shift could hurt the field at these subsequent events, prompting top players to withdraw if they go deep into the French Open, or help it by drawing participation from those who do not reach the second week. Local favorite Alexander Zverev is currently the top-ranked player entered at Stuttgart, but his participation would depend on the way he plays at Paris.
They delay is designed to provide extra time for government restrictions to be lifted in France, which began a four-week lockdown a week ago. The FFT said the move would "optimize our chances of welcoming spectators at Roland Garros," though the numbers which would be allowed is not apparent.
"For the fans, the players and the atmosphere, the presence of spectators is vital," said Gilles Moretton, president of the FFT.
According to L'Equipe, the FFT could provide the affected tournaments with some level of compensation. Most of the French tennis federation's 200 million Euros in funding comes from the French Open.
The clay events that were scheduled the week before the Paris major are also unsure of their position, but appear willing to stay where they are or shift with the Grand Slam event as required.
With the week of May 23 now vacant, it could be filled either with new events or by moving back those which had been scheduled right before it. These include the WTA 250 event in Strasbourg and ATP 250 events in Geneva and Lyon. There are also two new WTA events scheduled for Belgrade and Cologne.
The WTA event in Strasbourg is open to moving "one, three or even four weeks to improve the chances" of having spectators, and is speaking to the WTA about possible changes. But the event "has to happen," said tournament owner Denis Naegelen.
The ATP event in Geneva prefers its current week.
"At this time, there are no plans to change the date," said the tournament organizer, but indicated plans were flexible. "Whether you're Roland Garros or an ATP 250 in Geneva, you work for tennis, to keep everyone going."
The tournament could potentially get a better field, attracting players who do not want to play the week before a Grand Slam.
"But we don't rely too much on that either," he said. "At the moment we are not allowed to have spectators. With no ticket sales, the prize money decreases and it is difficult to attract top names."
The event usually aims to get local favorite Stan Wawrinka, though he does not always play.
The ATP event at Lyon, organized by Thierry Ascione, is of the position that "the priority is Roland Garros," indicating it does not object to the Grand Slam's date changes. The tournament had not planned on having spectators.