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 decisions made from the French Open organizers.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Paris for the second Grand Slam of this 2021 season. This year’s edition promises to be one that’s hotly contested between…
Wait, hold on we’re told that this year’s edition doesn’t actually start for another week. While the event might have been marked for this specific week when the ATP released the 2021 calendar, the French Tennis Federation (FFT) decided in early April to postpone the event by a week.
The reason for the delay this year? Well, the FFT followed the French President’s lead, who mentioned late in March that cultural and sporting events could potentially start happening again in the country from the middle of May and onwards.
Thus, the need to delay Roland-Garros by a full week. The reasoning is pretty simple here: if you wait longer before you have the event, then maybe you can sell more tickets and have more fans in the stands. Never mind that we’re (still) in the middle of a pandemic and that maybe we just shouldn’t have fans. (Or tennis events, for that matter.) That we shouldn’t look to squeeze every possible ticket sale out of the event during a pandemic.
Oddly similar to 2020
If it all feels eerily familiar to what we’ve witnessed last year, when the French Open was delayed to September with no rhyme or reason, then you’re absolutely right. The difference, here, is that the delay happens to be a few days rather than last year’s few months. But otherwise, this is now the second year in a row that the FFT thinks of its own bottom-line before anything else.
Don’t believe us? Maybe you point out that the FFT seem to have made this decision in consulting other governing bodies of the sport?
Sure, their attitude might have been less overtly cavalier than it was a year ago, but it might be all for show. For one thing, there’s this press release on the official Roland-Garros website that explains just what an important factor ticket sales have been in this decision. For another, despite what could be a full slate of spectators the event organizers decided to reduce the total prize money of the 2021 edition. After reducing the purse by almost 11 per cent a year ago, they struck again and cut it down to 32.6 million Euros for singles and a mere 5.12 million Euros for doubles.
Milos Raonic has had enough
Another way of showing just how bad it is? It’s motivated Canadian Milos Raonic, nominally as deadpanned as anyone else on the ATP Tour, to tweet about it.
Disappointed by FFT disregarding the doubles prize money and cutting them out significantly. They just do however they want. With no regard
— Milos Raonic (@milosraonic) May 13, 2021
Ultimately, there’s little we can do because the FFT has the big end of the stick. We’ll still tune in, it’s just that we’ll do so a week later than what we anticipated. If nothing else, it will give us all more time to prepare for the big prize at the end of the rainbow that’s the always entertaining clay court season.
What can you do with the extra time?
For the greats Roger Federer and Serena Williams, this extra time is an occasion to get some more reps under their belt.
The Swiss has decided to stay home and compete for the first time at the Gonet Geneva Open. He’s the first seed and has won his previous 32 matches in Switzerland, dating back to the 2013 Swiss Indoors Basel final against Juan Martin del Potro. Ultimately, this will only be Federer’s second tournament of the season, so you can understand why he would compete in Geneva.
As for Williams, the 39-year-old will play this week at the Internazionali di Tennis Emilia Romagna, colloquially known as the Parma Challenger on the WTA Tour. As the first seed, she’ll be by far the biggest name and draw of the event. If you glance at the main draw of the event, you’ll notice that her name lords over everyone else’s.
If nothing else, Federer and Williams using this extra time to enter minor and unknown tournaments proves one thing and one thing only: that clay is its own monster.
Coincidentally, that’s also what the actions of the French Open organizers have proven with their actions.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG