The good news is that the FFT has confirmed that the Paris Masters, due to take place from 31 October to 8 November, can take place as scheduled at the Accor Arena, but the bad news is that it is only one in an handful fo events cited for the rest of the year.
In the light of the rigorous organisation of Roland Garros, the FFT will reconcile strict compliance with the necessary health measures and the organisation of this exceptional sporting event. FFT Statement
This news came as the French Open entered the last few days at Roland Garros in its rescheduled autumn slot because of the coronavirus pandemic, which has decimated both the men’s and women’s calendars.
A limit of 1,000 spectators will be allowed to attend the Paris Masters in line with COVID-19 guidelines which are also in place at the French Open.
“In the light of the rigorous organisation of Roland Garros, the FFT will reconcile strict compliance with the necessary health measures and the organisation of this exceptional sporting event,” said a statement from the FFT.
Organisers will provide information on tickets and fans shortly.
The Paris Masters usually acts as the last of the 9 ATP Masters 1000 events in the calendar year, and is the only one of the tournaments to be held indoors.
Serbia’s Novak Djokovic won the 2019 edition after defeating Canada’s Denis Shapovalov in straight sets.
Following the shutdown of both tours at Indian Wells on 11 March, tournament tennis was put on hold for 5 months and only resumed for the women in Palermo on 3 August and on 22 August for the men at the Western & Southern Open, moved from Cincinnati to New York ahead of the US Open.
While the WTA Tour became active earlier, it suffered a major blow when China’s General Administration of Sport decreed in July that all international tournaments planned for the rest of the year could not be held because COVID-19, which included 7 WTA and 4 ATP Tour events planned for China in October and November, including the WTA Finals.
The impact on the women’s tour organisation is massive but the WTA said it had a strategy in place to cope with the financial strain caused by COVID-19.
“The WTA is no different than any other business in this world, and everybody’s been affected financially by this,” Simon told Reuters in late July. “And we’ve been hit hard, just as many other companies have been as well.
“If we’re not operating and you’re losing 50 to 60% of your year, your financials and your revenues are going to drop significantly.
“Do we have some big challenges financially? Absolutely. But we do have a strategy, we do have a plan in place that’s going to allow us to operate.”
The WTA has worked hard to provide playing opportunities for its players but, since the restart in August, has only succeeded in arranging 12 tournaments, a couple of which have yet to be confirmed, until the end of the year.
The ATP has fared somewhat better, with 14 events on the cards, including the Nitto ATP Finals at the O2 in London, its season-ending championships, which features the best 8 singles players and doubles teams of the year and is due to be played from 15-22 November.
In what is its last outing in London before heading to Turin in 2021, the ATP Finals, however, will be played with no fans inside the area unless current guidance from the government changes.
With the pandemic lingering, indeed worsening around the globe, the 2021 calendars are now being impacted with the Auckland Classic already scrapped because of difficulties in hosting the event.
The New Zealand hardcourt tournament, which is held in early January as a warm-up event for the Australian Open, attracting top names in recent years, holds separate events for men and women in different weeks and became the first victim of next season.
Under current restrictions, players entering Australia would need to quarantine for 14 days within a ‘bubble’ on arrival, which causes problems for those travelling between New Zealand and Australia.
With the conclusion of Roland Garros on Sunday, attention turns to the next Grand Slam, the Australian Open which is due to start on 18 January.
Faced with the prospect of 14 days quarantine ahead of the major, players must decide if they are prepared to make the journey.
According to Tournament director Craig Tiley, the Australian Open will go ahead in Melbourne in 2021, but with a very different look.
“We’ve been working through many different scenarios as things have progressed for January next year, and we’re confident that particularly here in Victoria and across Australia we’re going to continue to maintain a small infection rate,” Tiley told Breakfast on ABC Radio Melbourne.
“We could run it in a lockdown hub facility, or if the border is open there’ll be more free movement, but our first objective is obviously everyone’s safety.
“If we were to do it behind closed doors, that’s possible – we’d still be able to have the matches and all the great content go worldwide, but ideally we’d like to have some crowds. And that’s what we’re working [towards].”
This year the event attracted its largest crowd ever, with more than 800,000 people.
Meanwhile, it is reported that Roger Federer and Serena Williams have already confirmed their intent to compete in Melbourne, both of whom recently celebrated their 39th birthday and will turn 40 in 2021.
“Roger this morning just confirmed publicly, Roger Federer, that he’ll be here,” Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley said per nine.com.eu.
“Serena Williams will be here, obviously trying to get Margaret Court’s record. We’re excited about the players that will be here and about what we’ll put on.”
Federer’s last tour-level match came in January when he lost in the Australian Open semi-finals to Novak Djokovic.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion then beat rival Rafael Nadal in a charity match in South Africa in February but, in June, he announced he would be out of action for the rest of the 2020 season due to a knee injury.
Nadal tied Federer’s men’s record of 20 majors by winning his 13th Grand Slam title on Sunday, beating Djokovic, who had been hoping to capture his 18th major crown in Paris.
Williams, meantime, will return to Melbourne still trying to tie Court’s all-time record of 24 major titles, although she is now 0-4 in Grand Slam finals since becoming a mother.
After losing in the semi-finals of the US Open last month to Victoria Azarenka, Williams withdrew ahead of her second-round match at the French Open with an Achilles injury.
Tiley is hoping for crowds of between 25 and 50 per cent of capacity and expects all the top players to attend the January tournament.
“We will [have them] … we’ve been talking to them every single week,” Tiley said.
It is all, of course, in the lap of the pandemic gods.