French Open cuts fan attendance again; London’s O2 to host 2022 Laver Cup
The number of fans allowed to attend tennis’ French Open tournament at Roland Garros has been cut from 5,000 to 1,000 per day after the French government imposed new coronavirus restrictions in the country.
The delayed clay-court Grand Slam, which runs from 27 September to 11 October, had originally been set to allow around 11,500 fans each day into its Paris site, split into three different zones, based on the three main courts, but that number was cut to 5,000 last week amid rising coronavirus infections in the country.
However, yesterday, the French government announced new restrictions to combat the rising number of coronavirus cases, including limiting the number of spectators at large sporting events or concerts to 1,000.
Despite the announcement, tournament director Guy Forget told a press conference he was still hopeful of allowing 5,000 fans into the 12-hectare site per day and would be requesting a government exemption.
However, later in the evening Jean Castex, France’s prime minister, put paid to those plans after confirming Roland Garros would not be exempt from the restrictions, forcing the FFT, the French Tennis Federation, to announce the new limit.
The organisers said: “From the very outset of the public health crisis that our country is experiencing, the French Tennis Association has consistently worked closely with government departments to determine how to organise the tournament in the current situation.
“It deeply regrets these new restrictions.”
The limit represents less than 3 per cent of last year’s total attendance of almost 520,000 and will have financial repercussions for the FFT.
Last year, the French Open accounted for around 80 per cent of the governing body’s budget - €255.4 million ($297 million) out of a total €325 million, with ticket sales generating around 20 per cent of tournament revenue.
With the tournament due to start on Sunday, the new limit means there will be a daily draw to decide which ticket holders are allowed into the venue. Those who are not selected will have their ticket refunded and given priority access to tickets for next year’s event.
The US Open, which ended two weeks ago, was held behind closed doors at its Flushing Meadows complex in New York.
Meanwhile, elite tennis is set to return to London’s O2 after the venue was announced as host for the Laver Cup in 2022.
The London edition of the team competition, which takes place in Europe and US in alternative years, is scheduled to take place on the weekend of 23 to 25 September.
The Laver Cup, first launched in 2017, is tennis’ equivalent to golf’s Ryder Cup, with a team comprised of top men’s European players competing against a world selection each year.
Former players Björn Borg and John McEnroe currently serve as team captains.
The competition, named after Australian tennis legend Rod Laver, was launched by Team8, tennis legend Roger Federer’s management company, national governing body Tennis Australia and former Brazilian David Cup player Jorge Paulo Lemann.
This year’s edition was due to be staged in Boston, Massachusetts this week but was postponed to 2021 due to the pandemic. Previous editions have been hosted by Prague, Czech Republic, Chicago and Geneva, Switzerland
The announcement heralds the return of elite men’s tennis to the venue after it lost hosting rights to the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals.
The O2 has staged the ATP Finals since 2009 but after this year’s tournament in November, which will be played behind closed doors, it will move to Turin, Italy for the next five years.
Tony Godsick, Laver Cup chairman, said: “The British fans love their tennis and the Laver Cup is like nothing they have seen before.
“Over one amazing weekend, we bring together today’s greatest players as teammates, alongside legends and rivals from previous generations to create a truly unique spectacle that has thrilled fans around the globe.”
Sadiq Khan, mayor of London, said: “Londoners are fanatical about sport and have missed the thrill of live events during the pandemic. To add the prestigious Laver Cup to our portfolio is incredibly exciting and we can’t wait to welcome the event to town.”