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London | Postponed Paris puts spoke in the works

As the All England Club closes the Wimbledon Museum until further notice, Roland Garros faces a backlash from players and other governing bodies over its decision to arbitrarily stage the French Open a week after the US Open in September.

This announcement came as a surprise to us and our partners — Tennis Australia, the USTA and the ATP. It raises many questions and we are assessing the situation. At this time, we want our fans, sponsors, broadcasters, staff, volunteers, players and the great city of Boston to know that we intend to hold Laver Cup 2020 as currently scheduled. Laver Cup Statement

The new coronavirus has killed more than 8,400 people and infected more than 198,300 around the world, bringing the sports world to a virtual standstill and sending populations into home isolation.

French organisers now face the prospect of a player boycott over the decision to postpone the clay court event after the FFT threw the tennis calendar into disarray without any apparent consultation with the ATP or WTA and drawing widespread criticism that leaves the French Open on a collision course with the Laver Cup.

Tournament director Guy Forget reportedly called 12-times champion Rafael Nadal before the announcement, but it was not immediately known if Australia’s women’s titleholder and world No 1 Ashleigh Barty was notified.

“For us, it was unthinkable [to cancel]. The only thing we had in mind was the interest of the tournament and of the players,” FFT president Bernard Giudicelli said.

The French Open was to have been held from 24 May – 7 June but had been in major doubt after the men’s ATP Tour last week announced a six-week suspension due to the Coronavirus pandemic while the WTA, which runs women’s tennis, postponed all events until 2 May.

Tennis Australia, which created the Laver Cup with Roger Federer’s management group, was understood to have been blindsided by the French Open move to a 20 September start date, which is just five days before the scheduled opening to the 2020 Laver Cup in Boston.

Federer, a French Open semi-finalist last year in his only appearance in Paris since 2015, and Australian ace Nick Kyrgios, an unabashed supporter of the Laver Cup, are among the sport’s big guns likely to be weighing up their options.

According to Kevin Mitchell writing on Tuesday in the Guardian, some superstars of the game could actually be forced to boycott the French Open.

“Federer, the World No 4, who is recuperating from minor knee surgery and not due to resume playing until Wimbledon in July, has moved away from clay in recent years and would in any case be reluctant to sacrifice his involvement in the Laver Cup,” Mitchell wrote.

“The clash places Nadal, the French Open’s reigning and perennial master, in a more obviously embarrassing position.

“He too is a key figure in the Laver Cup’s Team Europe, along with Alexander Zverev – a client of Federer’s promotional company who chose to miss the ATP Cup in January to play exhibitions with the Swiss – Dominic Thiem and Stefanos Tsitsipas.

“But it is the Spaniard who is the king of Roland Garros. Without Nadal, the French Open is seriously diminished.”

Laver Cup organisers said they were surprised by the move to switch Roland Garros to September.

“This announcement came as a surprise to us and our partners — Tennis Australia, the USTA and the ATP. It raises many questions and we are assessing the situation,” they said in a statement .

“At this time, we want our fans, sponsors, broadcasters, staff, volunteers, players and the great city of Boston to know that we intend to hold Laver Cup 2020 as currently scheduled.”

The Laver Cup in Chicago

© Clive Brunskill/Getty Images for The Laver Cup

The new French Open dates mean that action at Roland Garros will begin seven days after US Open concludes on September 13.

This will leave players contesting a clay court major right in the middle of what is traditionally the hardcourt swing of the tennis season and with almost no opportunity to play any warm-up events on the slow surface.

The men’s ATP Tour, women’s WTA Tour and ITF have yet to respond publicly to the move but some players have taken to social media to criticise the lack of consultation.

Former World No 1 doubles player Jamie Murray expressed his surprise at how FFT’s move was handled.

“I thought the powers that be in tennis were supposed to be all about working together these days?” he said.

Argentine Diego Schwartzman, Sorana Cirstea of Romania and Russian Alla Kudryavtseva all vented their frustration at finding out about the switch from social media.

“Once again, we found out on Twitter,” wrote Schwartzman.

Former No 1 Naomi Osaka reacted to the news with a foray into French with her post of “Excusez moi?”, while other women’s players posted memes on social media to voice their confusion and frustration.

Australian Darren Cahill, who coaches former French Open champion Simona Halep, called for more coordination between tennis administrators.

“Nobody wants to see RG cancelled … just all work together to fix a schedule that makes sense when things clear up a bit,” he said. “Players, tournaments, majors, men and women all in a room. Now is a bit early for answers.”

“This is madness. Major announcement by Roland Garros changing the dates to one week after the U.S. Open. No communication with the players or the ATP… we have ZERO say in this sport. It’s time. #UniteThePlayers,” said Vasek Pospisil, who sits on the ATP players council, before he deleted the tweet.

“This is such a difficult time. Everyone is being impacted by this catastrophe,” he wrote in a further tweet.

“Enhancing communication & working together to find solutions should be the priority. Not going Rogue & making selfish/arrogant decisions to further impact the tour in a negative way.”

Meanwhile Wimbledon, which is due to start on 29 June, continues to closely monitoring the coronavirus pandemic on an active basis, working closely with the government and the relevant health authorities.

Following the government’s recommendation to individuals to avoid any non-essential social gatherings and work from home where possible, the AELTC has taken the decision to close the Wimbledon Museum and Tours, Shop, and Community Sports Ground, while the All England Club and Wimbledon Park Golf Club outdoor facilities will remain open to Members on a partial basis only for the time being.

At this time, organisers continue to plan for The Championships and the grass court season, and intend to maintain the Estate with a limited team onsite, with the rest of our business operations taking place through remote working.

Richard Lewis CBE, Chief Executive of the AELTC, commented: “At the heart of our decision-making is our commitment to the health and safety of our Members, staff, and the public, and we are grateful to the government and public health authorities for their advice and support.

“While we continue to plan for The Championships at this time, it remains a continuously evolving situation and we will act responsibly, in the best interests of wider society.

“We thank all of our Members, staff, players, partners, contractors and the public for their patience and trust as we continue to navigate this unprecedented global challenge.”

The USTA earlier released a statement which said there were no plans to alter the schedule for the 25 August – 25 September US Open and went on to obliquely criticise unilateral changes to the Grand Slam calendar.

“At a time when the world is coming together, we recognise that such a decision should not be made unilaterally,” it read.

“Therefore the USTA would only do so in full consultation with the other Grand Slam tournaments, the WTA and ATP, the ITF and our partners, including the Laver Cup.”



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