As France locks down for a third time because of the rise in coronavirus cases, organisers of the French Open at Roland Garros in Paris say the clay court Grand Slam remains on track to be staged from 17 May to 6 June.
At the moment, we are on track, the tournament is on the scheduled date but if we are told a general confinement for two months, we will necessarily have to take measures - the worst being the outright cancellation, but I dare not imagine that. Gilles Moretton, Président Fédération Française de Tennis (FFT)
France has imposed new lockdown measures across the country for the next four weeks, including a 7 pm curfew and 10 km movement restrictions.
As a result, Roland Garros is considering a range of scenarios for holding this year’s major, saying it is not likely that the event will either get cancelled, or have full capacity crowds.
Similar to current plans for The Champions at Wimbledon, arrangements probably will include reduced attendance and a bubble environment for the players and their teams.
Gilles Moretton, the new President of the Fédération Française de Tennis (FFT), told AFP that the tournament was looking at the possibility of having no fans or even large crowds.
“There is the total range… or almost total because I dare not imagine a 100 percent crowd level,” he said.
“At the moment, we are on track, the tournament is on the scheduled date but if we are told a general confinement for two months, we will necessarily have to take measures – the worst being the outright cancellation, but I dare not imagine that.”
Daily cases of COVID-19 in France have doubled to around 40,000 and hospitals in infection hotspots like Paris are overflowing.
On Wednesday, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that schools will close next week and a limited lockdown in place in Paris and other regions would be extended to the whole country to battle soaring COVID-19 cases, but professional sporting competitions are still allowed with no fans.
Last year Roland Garros was delayed by four months and held in September and October instead of its longstanding May-June slot, with crowds limited to just 1,000 spectators each day by government restrictions leading up to the tournament.
Moretton confirmed that the FFT will not have a two-week quarantine like the Australian Open, which forced players into a two-week hotel quarantine.
“We are studying a lot of options for Roland Garros 2021,” added Moretton.
“There is the total range, but that can start from behind closed doors to a level that will not be 100%. All the options with us are ready.”
With European clay-court events scheduled in the weeks leading up to Paris, safety protocols will be decided in the next few weeks.
“We meet all the players regularly and we wait to see how things will turn out,” Moretton said.
“Before us, there are other tournaments like Monte Carlo, which takes place on the same territory and which is outdoors and after there are tournaments not too far away [Madrid, Rome] so we are not like the situation in Australia.”
Moretton added that organisers will be able to take into account lessons learned from other events leading up to the season’s second Grand Slam event.
With a retractable roof over the Philippe Chatrier Stadium and newly installed floodlights on all match courts, the FFT plans to hold night sessions for the first time.
Moretton was elected President of the FFT on 13 February, wining the majority vote over incumbent Bernard Giudicelli, who he succeeds for a 4-year term.
A former professional tennis player, Morreton played on tour from 1977 to 1984, obtaining a career best singles ranking of 65 and 55 in doubles, and also playing for France in the Davis Cup.
He reached the round of 16 at Roland-Garros in 1979, where he lost to Björn Borg, and the final of the Atlanta tournament in 1981.
After retiring at the age of 26, he pursued an entrepreneurial career for thirty years, guided by his passion for sport and founding his company, GMO (Gilles Moretton Organisation), specialising in the organisation of sporting events, and creating the Lyon Grand Prix de Tennis in 1987, which has become a major event on the ATP circuit.
In 1995, GMO organised the Lyon Marathon and six years later, in 2001, Moretton was appointed Chairman of the Management Board of ASVEL Basket, the famous basketball club that won two French championship titles, in 2002 and 2009, under his leadership.
In 2005, he was appointed Executive Director of the Sportfive sports marketing agency, a position he held until 2007 and in April 2010, he joined a group of Lyon investors who bought the local television channel TLM (Télé Lyon Métropole), of which he became president from July 2013 to January 2015.
In January 2018, he decided to commit to the development of tennis, and was elected President of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tennis League, before being re-elected in November 2020.
Three months later, he became the 15th President of the French Tennis Federation with his project ‘Together For Another Tennis’, following a campaign of more than a year, conducted throughout France.