Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon gives his thoughts on the scheduling conflict at the 2019 French Open.

Weather can be, as they say, a two-part word where the first part starts with m – and rhymes with “other”  and the other starts with f – and rhymes with “bother.”

That is, if you’re the organizer of a tennis tournament where you play matches outside, Mother Nature can be the bane of your existence if it forces you to reschedule matches because of rain.

Shit happens, this is life, and you deal with it the best way you can.

The best way you can, however, probably shouldn’t have elicited this type of response from Steve Simon, WTA CEO and chairman.

Let’s back up a few days.

On the second Wednesday of this French Open, rain cancelled all matches on the schedule and, frankly, f-ed things up for everyone. Then the French Open organizers went ahead and double-f-ed them over.

Facing a situation where all four semifinal singles matches would be on the schedule on the same day, folks from Roland-Garros decided to, like, give the ATP the entire cake and leave nothing for the WTA. You see, they had both men’s semifinals, featuring the triumvirate of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic (and Dominic Thiem too, sure), on the main Philippe-Chatrier court. If that’s what you want, sure it’s your prerogative, but you had better have a hell of a solution for the two women’s semifinals.

In light of what happened, you might say that the French Open organizers did not have a hell of a solution, deciding to play the two women’s semifinals matches at 11am and on the second and third biggest courts of the tournament. As a result of this, the women’s semifinals had less of a Grand Slam feel and more one of a, oh I don’t know, garage league first rounder? I mean, look at the photos.

This didn’t sit well with plenty of folks, and honestly it shouldn’t sit well with the majority of tennis fans if we’re keeping it real, further dividing tennis into a sport of haves and have nots, of men and women. It’s not right for the WTA to continually have to justify their involvement and worthiness of playing on the same biggest stage as men do, whose right to do so is seemingly preordained. And it’s not right for the WTA final to be delayed at a Grand Slam for the second time in a year because the men’s semifinal that’s played before it fails to finish within a reasonable time.

(Plus, if you want us to keep it fully 100 per cent real, organizers probably should have moved the Federer/Nadal match to a lesser court: on clay courts especially, the Swiss is absolutely hopeless against the Spaniard. But that’s neither here nor there.)

Some of us might be inclined to give French Open organizers and powers that be the benefit of the doubt, to insist on how difficult running such a tournament must be. Some of us might be thinking to ourselves, “Oh you know, they probably learned their lesson and they’ll get it better the next time, they were dealt a hard blow.”

Well the very next time came right after during the Djokovic/Thiem semifinal. Early in the third set, tournament organizers pulled the plug again and decided to stop the match for the day because rain was coming. This would force the two semifinalists to complete their match the following day on what would have been their off-day before the men’s final on Sunday.

This is all good in theory, but they halted their match a full 80 minutes before rainfall. We don’t know about you, but we feel like that might have been a tad overcautious—especially so after moving the two women matches to lesser courts. This was the time to use every minute you had, not to dip out for an early dinner. Because, of course, the match eventually went on and on and on, delaying the start of the women’s final.

Overall, this year proved that at the French Open, though they accomplished the same thing, men and women players weren’t treated equally.

That’s a problem, and it’s beyond time we find a solution where it’s not on women to justify why they deserve it just as much.

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG


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