The French Open tennis tournament will be delayed by one week because of the coronavirus pandemic. The clay-court Grand Slam tournament was set to start in Paris on May 23, but first-round matches will now get underway on May 30.
The tournament will conclude on June 13.
The French Tennis Federation (FFT) said the decision was taken in order to maximise chances the event would be played “in front of as many spectators as possible” in a safe environment.
The move came as coronavirus cases surge in France and hospitals approach saturation.
To slow down the pace of infections, new nationwide restrictions have been enforced, including a three-week school closure, a month-long domestic travel ban and the closing of non-essential shops.
“This postponement will give us a little more time to improve the health situation and should allow us to optimize our chances of welcoming spectators at Roland Garros,” FFT president Gilles Moretton said in a statement.
“Whether for the fans, the players or the atmosphere, crowd presence is essential to the tournament, the first international sporting event of the spring.”
Last year’s French Open was pushed back to September because of coronavirus, with crowds limited to 1,000 per day.
The ATP and WTA released a joint statement saying they understood why the decision was made to delay the start of the tournament by a week.
“Tennis has required an agile approach to the calendar over the past 12 months in order to manage the challenges of the pandemic, and this continues to be the case,” the statement read.
“The decision to delay the start of Roland Garros by one week has been made in the context of recently heightened COVID-19 restrictions in France, with the additional time improving the likelihood of enhanced conditions and ability to welcome fans at the event.
“Both the ATP and WTA are working in consultation with all parties impacted by the postponement to optimise the calendar for players, tournaments and fans in the lead up to and following Roland Garros. Further updates will be communicated in due course.”
The French Open’s postponement will create a scheduing headache for the International Tennis Federation, and the ATP and WTA Tours.
Its rescheduled finish date means it will conclude just two weeks before the expected start of Wimbledon.
The postponement will have an impact on the grasscourt season, with tournaments scheduled to start on June 7 in s’-Hertogenbosch (WTA and ATP) Stuttgart (ATP) and Nottingham (WTA).
This year’s Australian Open was delayed by three weeks because of COVID concerns, beginning on February 8.