Roland Garros organisers promise caution after Adria Tour; Aus Open insurance expiring
Guy Forget, the tournament director of tennis’ French Open, has insisted the organisers will be “really cautious” in the staging of the championships after the positive coronavirus cases at a recent event in eastern Europe.
The rescheduled French Open is due to take place at Roland Garros in Paris from 20 September to 4 October, with spectator attendance reduced to no more than 60 per cent.
Forget said the organisers had learned lessons from last month's Adria Tour, backed by world number one Novak Djokovic and comprising charity events for top men’s players in the Balkan region, which had to be abandoned after several positive tests for Covid-19.
There was criticism of the health and safety measures in place for the tournaments in Serbia and Croatia after Djokovic and fellow players Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Viktor Troicki all tested positive.
Forget told Reuters: “Maybe some people were overconfident there. 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.”
The FFT, the French tennis federation, is expecting crowds of 20,000 a day at the French Open in the early stages of the tournament, and 10,000 per day on the finals weekend.
Many sports, notably soccer, have resumed without spectators but, despite the health risks, Forget believes it is necessary to have fans at Roland Garros this autumn.
He said: “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.”
The French Open will be the third and final grand slam of the year, after Wimbledon in the UK was cancelled and the US Open was cleared to go ahead, without spectators, on 31 August to 13 September.
The 2020 Australian Open took place at the start of the year, before the pandemic took hold around the world, and Craig Tiley, the tournament director, is confident the 2021 edition can be held in Melbourne despite local concerns over coronavirus.
However, it has emerged that a pandemic insurance policy that organiser Tennis Australia had in place for this year’s event will not apply in 2021.
The All England Lawn Tennis Club, which runs Wimbledon, has been praised for its foresight in taking out a policy that has insured it against significant losses from the cancellation of this year’s tournament.
There was a similar policy for the Australia Open but it expires this year and, in the current challenging economic climate, will not be renewed for 2021.
TA told The Age newspaper: “Although we were able to have pandemic coverage as part of our policy over the past few years, the current situation with Covid-19 makes it prohibitive going forward, certainly in the short term.”
There has been an increase in coronavirus cases in the state of Victoria in recent weeks, prompting talk that the Australian Open might have to be moved from Melbourne to another city such as Sydney or Brisbane.
However, this has been ruled out by Tiley, who told AAP late last week: "Nothing has changed for us in terms of our planning. The environment around us has changed, and will continue to change, as we've seen with the current spike in Victoria. We're optimistic the additional measures currently in place will be successful - and restrictions will continue to be eased over the coming months.
"So I'm confident we will run the Australian Open in Melbourne and other events around Australia in January and we're working closely with all our authorities on the regulations regarding mass gatherings, physical distancing and increased hygiene that are being put in place."