The French Tennis Federation is expected to announce on Thursday that the next grand-slam event – the French Open – will be delayed by a week because of the tougher Covid-19 measures announced by President Macron last week.
The delay will shift the event from a May 23 start to a May 30 start, and return the calendar to the old two-week gap between Roland Garros and Wimbledon. A more comfortable three-week interval has been the norm since 2015.
The news follows hard on the heels of Wednesday’s postponement of the French Open golf, which was intended to run from May 6 to 9 but has now been set back to an unspecified date later in the year.
The FFT might have liked to have taken a similar course, as they did last year when the French Open was postponed four months and started in late September, but the issue was the crowded calendar.
Last year’s unilateral decision from the FFT prompted significant ill-feeling around the global game, and with Indian Wells still looking to relocate to the autumn, another late-season Roland Garros would have caused an outcry.
Telegraph Sport understands that there is a reduced attendance planned for this slightly delayed French Open, but that the week’s delay has persuaded government officials to approve the idea of at least some fans entering Roland Garros. Had it gone ahead on May 23, the grounds would have had to be empty.
Wimbledon is also planning on a reduced attendance policy, even though the road map set out by the Government indicates that the last lockdown restrictions will be lifted on June 21. There may be some relaxation of the All England Club’s stance if cases in the UK are under control by that stage.
France has recorded more than 4,000 Covid-19 deaths in the last fortnight, almost 10 times as many as England.
ANALYSIS: Moving the French Open will have major repercussions for Wimbledon
The French Tennis Federation’s decision is sure to prompt rapid recalculations by players and tournament organisers around Europe.
To take one high-profile example, could Andy Murray — whose body has struggled to cope with back-to-back tournaments of late — make the decision to skip Roland Garros in order to prepare himself for a big charge on the grass?
As for the tournaments, insiders are already suggesting that the Libema Open — the grass-court event in ’s-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands, which is due to start on June 5 — will fold. It would originally have begun just as the French Open was ending, but would now be up against the second week of a grand slam.
The Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart starts on the same date, and is thought to be asking for compensation from the FFT if it is to go ahead. There are precedents here, as both the United States Tennis Association and Tennis Australia have paid out compensation to events affected by their scheduling manoeuvres in recent months.
The complications for the Lawn Tennis Association are significant. Queen’s will not clash directly with the French Open, but its player field is likely to be weakened by the absence of a free week for players to rest and prepare for their transition onto grass. Many of the leading names will probably go without a warm-up event and arrive at Wimbledon a week in advance to practice at Aorangi Park.
At the same time, there is perhaps the potential for the LTA to stage an extra event in the week that would normally house the Libema Open, on the basis that players who lose early in Paris will be looking to travel to the UK in any case, and might be keen to play a tournament when they arrive. One possibility could be an upgrade for the Nottingham Challenger, which also starts on June 5, into an ATP 250 — although this scenario would probably require the AELTC to help out with some extra prize money.
Everything would become even more difficult if players were required to quarantine after their journey across the Channel. This seems unlikely, however. Multiple matches in the European Championships are still expected to be staged in the UK in June and July. We can presume, then, that visiting athletes will be granted exemptions.