French Open reschedul­ing ef­fort angers ATP and WTA

The Guardian - - Sport - Kevin Mitchell

The ten­nis sea­son has been shut down and all rank­ings frozen un­til 7 June, ef­fec­tively sidestep­ping the French Open in late May but keep­ing Wim­ble­don, three weeks later, safe for now.

When the French Ten­nis Fed­er­a­tion on Tues­day uni­lat­er­ally tried to shift the sea­son’s sec­ond ma­jor from May to Septem­ber, sup­pos­edly to es­cape the threat of coron­avirus but also clearly to se­cure the vi­a­bil­ity of the event later in the year, it was ready for a roast­ing by the ATP and the WTA, and this was it.

While the other or­gan­i­sa­tions have no con­trol over grand slam events, the tough re­sponse of the men’s and women’s tours will hurt the French, who surely will re­con­sider their strat­egy hav­ing an­gered play­ers and ad­min­is­tra­tors across the sport.

“Now is not a time to act uni­lat­er­ally, but in uni­son,” the ATP and the WTA said yes­ter­day in a joint state­ment. “All de­ci­sions re­lated to the im­pact of the coron­avirus re­quire ap­pro­pri­ate con­sul­ta­tion and re­view with the stake­hold­ers in the game, a view that is shared by ATP, WTA, ITF, AELTC, Ten­nis Aus­tralia, and USTA.”

But not, as yet, the FFT. Be­hind the scenes, the French tried to per­suade their 12-time cham­pion, Rafael Nadal, to com­mit to the new dates, which would re­quire him to aban­don his in­volve­ment in the con­cur­rent Laver Cup, a team event pit­ting the best play­ers in Europe against a star squad from the rest of the world.

Roger Fed­erer, re­cu­per­at­ing from knee surgery at least un­til Wim­ble­don and un­likely to have played on the Roland Gar­ros clay what­ever the date, is a key fi­nan­cial backer of the Laver Cup.

In their joint state­ment, the ATP and WTA said: “Af­ter care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion, and due to the con­tin­u­ing out­break of Covid-19, all ATP and WTA tour­na­ments in the spring clay-court swing will not be held as sched­uled.

“The pro­fes­sional ten­nis sea­son is now sus­pended through 7 June. At this time, tour­na­ments tak­ing place from 8 June on­wards [which in­cludes Queen’s Club] are still plan­ning to go ahead as per the pub­lished sched­ule. In par­al­lel, the FedEx ATP rank­ings and WTA rank­ings will be frozen un­til fur­ther no­tice.”

The ex­ten­sion of the ATP’s sus­pen­sion from 27 April, and the WTA’s clo­sure from 20 April, sent a clear sig­nal to the French that their im­me­di­ate pri­or­ity was not the re­al­lo­ca­tion of dates to save tour­na­ments but the man­age­ment of the cur­rent sched­ule, re­gard­less of the col­lat­eral cost to in­di­vid­ual events, big and small.

The state­ment, couched diplo­mat­i­cally in the main, con­tained another barb re­served solely for the FFT, whose tour­na­ment might not now go ahead as sched­uled in the fort­night from 24 May, and who had ig­nored ob­jec­tions to the new dates in Septem­ber that not only fol­low a mere week af­ter the con­clu­sion of the US Open but clash di­rectly with the Laver Cup in Bos­ton.

The ATP/WTA state­ment ob­served “the chal­lenges pre­sented by the Covid-19 pan­demic to pro­fes­sional ten­nis de­mand greater col­lab­o­ra­tion than ever from ev­ery­one in the ten­nis com­mu­nity in or­der for the sport to move for­ward in the best in­ter­est of play­ers, tour­na­ments and fans”.

“We are as­sess­ing all op­tions re­lated to pre­serv­ing and max­imis­ing the ten­nis cal­en­dar based on var­i­ous re­turn dates for the Tours, which re­mains an un­known at this time. We are com­mit­ted to work­ing through these mat­ters with our player and tour­na­ment mem­bers, and the other gov­ern­ing bod­ies, in the weeks and months ahead.”

▲ Si­mona Halep could still de­fend the Wim­ble­don ti­tle she won in July

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