Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon recaps the latest bait-and-switch that the French Open pulled on the tennis world.
We’ll open this week’s column by giving our warmest thanks to the tennis gods.
While we might have feared for a scarcity of column topics—and with good reason: what do you write about in the column that looks back on the week that was, if the week that was had zero tennis played?—after the tennis powers that be decided to halt all activities for six weeks, we are happy to report that tennis will keep on keeping on.
You see, there might not be any tennis played but writing this column this week was a seamless process; and since we have our topic for next week already lined up, this should hold also for our upcoming one too.
So this week? Well, this week organizers of Roland Garros declared war on the rest of the sport.
— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) March 17, 2020
As you see from the above tweet, the French Open will be played from September 20 to October 4 this year. That’s right: a mere (as things stand now) week after the conclusion of the US Open and exactly at the same time as a slew of other events. By our count, the new date for Roland Garros will overlap with five WTA events and another six ATP events. In a pinch, the French Open becomes this year’s final Grand Slam rather than its second.
Something, as they say, will have got to give.
The decision, in and of itself, is not exactly the worse one they could have made. In a world where the coronavirus global pandemic has upended our everyday lives and that it’s become increasingly clear how long we will all need to put our lives on hold, it’s okay to be proactive. In fact, it’s probably best to be so. If you’re going to reschedule, then reschedule super far in the future, not just for four or six weeks—because it’s likely things won’t get back to normal until super far in the future.
One of the main problems in the French Open’s decision is, apparently, their decision to reschedule to a later date without consulting anyone else. Without consulting the US Open organizers, which concludes just a week prior. Without consulting anyone from the ATP or the WTA. Without consulting anyone from the Laver Cup, a men’s exhibition event that has somehow grown in importance.
What we’re saying is that Roland Garros organizers went rogue at a time when folks around the world should be coming together. In a way, we can understand why. The original date for the 2020 French Open was coming up very quickly and it’s become unlikely and unfeasible to hold an event of this size so soon. It’s time to act and get ahead of the curve (in order to best flatten the curve), is what we think French Open organizers thought.
But ultimately, this was and is a selfish decision from the French: in doing their best trying to anticipate and get ahead of the looming catastrophe, Roland Garros organizers threw everyone else under the bus. In looking to be proactive, they put everyone else in reactive mode.
For the longest after their decision, no one else had announced anything yet about potential rescheduling of their coming events one way or another… until a few hours ago when the organizers of the Italian Open mentioned that they would sure like to retain their place as a French Open warm-up event in this new calendar. This is why we think it’s about to turn into hell if everyone else follows the French Open’s lead and simply makes unilateral decision for their own benefit.
The above holds for everyone except for the folks who should actually be proactive about this looming catastrophy: both the ATP and WTA should look to use these coming weeks and months to step and grow into their leadership role. The world in 2020 is a scary and deeply scarring place and we’re all hoping and looking for folks to guide us home. Until we have that, it’s likely that the French Open’s and the Italian Open’s renegade decisions won’t be the last two of their kind.
Of course, there’s a non-zero chance that we’re having this entire debate for naught, that the 2020 tennis season quickly becomes the 2021 tennis season. In this case, the French Open would be played on May 24, 2021.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG