French Open washed out for first time in 16 years
Not so much the French Open as the French closed. For the first time in 16 years, unrelenting rain yesterday washed out a full day of play at the only Grand Slam tennis venue without a retractable roof over its show court, clogging the schedule with unfinished and postponed matches and prompting the frustrated tournament director to plead again for a roof as soon as possible.
"Our roof is a necessity," Guy Forget said as players were sent back to their hotels and thousands of would-be spectators told to apply for refunds for their unused tickets.
"I'm a bit annoyed today, to say the least."
Chopped and changed plans to modernise Roland Garros now call for a retractable roof by 2020 over Court Philippe Chatrier as part of a modernisation of the cramped clay-court venue in the west of Paris. But opposition and legal action from local residents and environmental activists haVE slowed the ambitious project, which would expand Roland Garros into botanical gardens next door.
Tournament organisers hope a ruling expected in September from the Council of State, France's highest administrative authority, will allow work to proceed.
"We knew today was going to be horrible and it went beyond what we had imagined. That's why we sent back the players so early," Forget said.
The schedule for today now has top-ranked Novak Djokovic against 14th-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut in the first match on Chatrier playing for a place in the quarter-finals.
They will be followed by defending champion Serena Williams in her delayed fourth-round match against 18th-seeded Elina Svitolina. Venus Williams' match against 2015 semi-finalist Timea Bacsinszky was supposed to have been played on Chatrier yesterday but was rescheduled as the third match today on Court Suzanne Lenglen.
The first men's quarter-finals are also scheduled: Second-seeded Andy Murray against Richard Gasquet is the third match on Chatrier, and defending champion Stan Wawrinka against Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain is scheduled last on Lenglen.
For the tournament to have the singles finals over the weekend as planned, players could be asked to play on consecutive days, as opposed to every two days, which is usual when conditions are ideal. That should not be a huge problem in women's singles, which play best-of-three sets, but could be tougher on men if their singles matches go to five sets. Forget didn't rule out that the finals could also be postponed.
"We are not that far back on schedule," Forget said. "If they do have, eventually at one point, to play two matches, then I guess the fittest guy will be rewarded for it."