By Sudipto Ganguly
MUMBAI (Reuters) – Postponing the French Open to September may have prevented the Grand Slam from falling victim to the coronavirus pandemic but the organizers now find themselves isolated and friendless as the tennis world comes to terms with the shock move.
The French Tennis Federation (FTT), in an announcement that came out of the blue on Tuesday, said they were moving the tournament to Sept. 20-Oct. 4 from its May start because of the coronavirus outbreak.
While players raged at the lack of communication prior to the decision, the International Tennis Federation, the men’s ATP Tour and the women’s WTA Tour have refrained from commenting directly on the switch.
However, when the ATP and WTA issued a joint statement on Wednesday calling on all stakeholders in tennis to work together, they namechecked the ITF and the organizers of three of the four Grand Slams — but not the FFT.
“Now is not a time to act unilaterally, but in unison,” the statement read.
The French Open will now clash with ATP tournaments in Metz, St. Petersburg, Chengdu, Sofia and Zhuhai and WTA events in Guangzhou, Seoul, Tokyo and Wuhan.
Organizers of the Korea Open, the China Open and the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo were all left in the dark about the future of their tournaments in a calendar already full to capacity.
Chengdu Open organizers echoed the sentiments of many when they said they were disappointed by the lack of communication from the FFT.
“As everyone already knows RG’s announcement caught everyone by surprise, including players, ITF and other Grand Slams,” tournament director Luiz Carvalho told Reuters in a statement.
“In a moment when the world is coming together to overcome a global health issue it is quite disappointing to find out through the social media such a decision has been made without anyone’s consent.
“We will discuss with the ATP what are our options in the coming weeks.”
While the tournaments will take their lead from the ATP and WTA, the decision to reschedule the French Open to the same slot as the Laver Cup risks alienating not only the exhibition event’s co-creator Roger Federer but also the organizers of two other Grand Slams.
Tennis Australia, the owners of the opening Grand Slam of the year at Melbourne Park, and U.S. Open organizers United States Tennis Association are stakeholders in the Laver Cup, which is part of the ATP Tour calendar.
In an uncompromising statement on Wednesday, Laver Cup organizers expressed surprise at the decision and said the exhibition event would go ahead in September as planned.
Federer played the French Open in 2019 after a three-year absence but if other top names joined him in skipping the trip to Paris it would take some of the gloss off Roland Garros.
In Wednesday’s statement, the ATP and WTA said they were extending the suspension of their tours until June 7, wiping out the entire claycourt season and leaving players to count the financial cost of the tennis shutdown.
The tours also announced that players will hold onto their current rankings spots until further notice, raising questions about the Tokyo Olympics qualification process.
The June 8 rankings were supposed to be the cutoff to determine spots for the Tokyo Games but it was unclear if that process will be changed.
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)