Defending champion Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are the key figures at the French Open. Reuters
The global tennis calendar has been thrown into further chaos after a decision by French Open organisers to postpone the Grand Slam, with players and rival tournaments critical of the apparently unilateral move.
The event at Roland Garros, traditionally the second major of the season, was on Tuesday moved from a May 24 start date to Sept.20.
Organisers said strict confinement measures imposed by the French government to tackle COVID-19 had made it impossible to continue with preparations.
FFT (French tennis federation) president Bernard Giudicelli said: “We have made a difficult yet brave decision in this unprecedented situation, which has evolved greatly since last weekend.”
But the new dates mean the tournament would start just one week after the US Open, if that event remained in its original slot.
Organisers of the Grand Slam in New York acknowledged it might need to be moved but said they would not go it alone in a scarcely veiled dig at French chiefs.
The rescheduled French Open would also clash with the start of the Asian swing and the Laver Cup team competition, due to take place in Boston from Sept.25-27.
The men’s ATP tour and the women’s WTA tour are both currently suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.
British doubles player Jamie Murray queried the apparent lack of coordination at the top of the game.
“Strong Move by French Open / FFT to move to end of Sept,” he tweeted.
“I thought the powers that be in tennis were supposed to be all about working together these days?” Canada’s Vasek Pospisil, a member of the ATP player council, was strongly critical of the decision.
“This is such a difficult time,” he tweeted. “Everyone is being impacted by this catastrophe.
“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. #RolandGarros.”
It also caught WTA chief Steve Simon by surprise, as well as former US and Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka.
“Excusez moi???” tweeted Osaka, while Romania’s Sorana Cirstea took issue with the method of communication. “What??? Again finding out through twitter...” she wrote.
The revised dates will leave players contesting a clay-court Grand Slam in the middle of the traditional hard-court season, with limited opportunities to adjust to the slower surface.
Roland Garros will also now clash with a number of tournaments, including the Laver Cup, where Europe’s top players take on a World team.
Roger Federer has already committed to the event and Rafael Nadal -- the 12-time French Open champion -- is another key figure at the tournament.
“This announcement came as a surprise to us and our partners -- Tennis Australia, the USTA (US Tennis Association) and the ATP,” said Laver Cup organisers.
“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.”
The USTA said it would not determine any new date for the US Open without consulting the other major championship organisers, the International Tennis Federation and the ATP and WTA tours.
“We recognise that such a decision should not be made unilaterally,” it said in a statement.
The US Open, usually the final Grand Slam on the calendar, is scheduled to run from Aug.31 to Sept.13 in Flushing Meadows, New York.
Meanwhile, Wimbledon organisers are still planning to play the Grand Slam this year, despite the coronavirus chaos that led the French Open to be pushed back until September.
Wimbledon is scheduled to run from June 29 to July 12, but All England Club chiefs are aware the sporting schedule has been decimated by the deadly pandemic.
French Open bosses on Tuesday revealed the clay-court event will move from its scheduled spring slot to September.
The year’s second Grand Slam was due to begin on May 24, but will now run from Sept.20 to Oct.4.
Nadal emerged triumphant that day, winning in five sets in a four-hour 48-minute epic of fluctuating fortunes that stretched out over seven hours because of constant, momentum-shifting rain interruptions.
Eight-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer reached the last-32 of a Grand Slam for the 70th time as he disposed of British wild card Jay Clarke 6-1, 7-6 (7/3), 6-2 in the second round at Wimbledon on Thursday.
Wimbledon is set to start in London on June 29, but the continuing spread of the virus has caused havoc with the sporting schedule and the grass-court Grand Slam could be the next major event to be delayed.
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