French Open ‘recognise error’ in moving tournament due to coronavirus

The French Tennis Federation (FFT) are said to have realised they made an ‘error’ moving the French Open to September over their fears the tournament would be cancelled due to the global coronavirus pandemic.

Last month, the FFT stunned the tennis world when they abruptly announced they were moving the French Open from its date in May to September 20.

It is now set to fall just one week after the men’s singles final at the US Open in New York, leaving players with little time to adjust to the change in court surface and recover physically.

Players on the ATP and WTA reacted with surprise and bemusement at discovering the news on social media.

But that has since grown into criticism of the FFT for ‘unilaterally’ rescheduling without informing the other major stakeholders.

The FFT’s actions were in direct contrast to the All England Club, who have been praised for their communication after they were forced to cancel Wimbledon this week.

Wimbledon is the only Grand Slam to have safeguarded themselves with insurance which covers epidemics.

Whereas officials from the French Open admitted they would lose £230 million from the tournament not being held.

But amid the outcry, it appears the FFT have realised the error of their ways.

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Two-time French Open champion Jim Courier told the New York Times: “From what I’m hearing, the French Open has recognized pretty quickly the error of stepping on people’s toes without giving them enough warning.

“I think there have been lots of discussions among the powers that be since then.”

It remains to be seen what will ultimately happen with the French Open while the coronavirus crisis continues to develop.

Meanwhile, world No 60 Pablo Cuevas has become the latest ATP player to hit out at the French Open organisers, calling their actions ‘selfish’.

“I think the Roland Garros decision was a bit rushed, perhaps without asking the ATP from what I know,” he said.

“Also, it seems they didn’t take into account the rest of the tournaments, the rest of the calendar, it was something weird.

“Even more in this moment of solidarity, where we must have solidarity, it was something pretty selfish to go forward and set the dates without having any concern for the players and the rest of the calendar. All the players were a bit surprised.”

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Johanna Konta speaks to Hannah Wilkes about Wimbledon and Celebrity Great British Bake Off

Sky Sports’ Hannah Wilkes catches up with Johanna Konta as they discuss a number of topics including the cancellation of Wimbledon and how the coronavirus is affecting her own schedule and the sport’s in 2020.

British No 1 Konta has been at home just like the rest of us in a time of uncertainty due to the coronavirus pandemic which is sweeping the globe.

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The former Wimbledon semi-finalist speaks exclusively to us about a number of topics, including the cancellation of Wimbledon, working out at home, and there’s some light-hearted chat about being involved in the Celebrity Great British Bake Off.

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The sights, sounds and stars we will miss from tennis in 2020

Roger Federer has been playing tennis in the snow against a wall, while Serena Williams has been explaining the anxiety she has been feeling.

Instead of plotting to win a 21st and 24th Grand Slam singles title respectively this summer, they too are wondering whether the coronavirus pandemic will allow any tennis at all in 2020.

Wimbledon is cancelled. Roland Garros postponed. And even the US Open – whose facilities are currently being used as a temporary hospital – may not be able to meet its 31 August deadline.

Imagine the demand for wildcards from players’ agents once the suspension is lifted. Imagine our delight at being able to follow tournaments, which would not usually quicken the pulse, on a live scoring app. And imagine how we will savour every single minute of a 14-hour day at the Australian Open. For a short while, at least.

But before we cast our minds forwards, let us take a minute to be honest about what we will miss.

There will be no European clay court season, in its regular slot at least. No trip to Rome to be surrounded by marble statues of muscular athletes in the Foro Italico. And no Roland Garros, with its long light evenings, those unique Parisian chants and the amplified sound of a ring pull being loosened to promote the tournament’s favourite brand of sparkling water.

And yes, this year I will miss the bright pastel trousers worn by the members at The Queen’s Club. Along with Eastbourne’s sea gales and having to wait for a change of ends before climbing swiftly to the very back of the stand to reclaim the BBC commentary box.

There will be no dramatic late night finishes on the outside courts at Wimbledon. There will be no camping and no queue, and therefore no “orderly” procession (‘Please don’t run, just walk!’) to take up the best seats on Centre Court once the gates open. And neither will the players’ entrance to Centre Court spring open at precisely 1pm every afternoon.

When normality gradually returns, it will be as if every player is returning from a long-term injury simultaneously. Everyone will be rusty; everyone searching for match fitness.

Federer, who genuinely has had an injury (he had arthroscopic knee surgery in February), usually starts well: remember how he won the 2017 Australian Open in his first competitive tournament for six months? But with a birthday on 8 August, he is likely to be 39 the next time he plays and will be planning for his 40th when Wimbledon returns next summer.

A summer shorn of Grand Slams will further lengthen his chances of winning another. But with 20 in the trophy cabinet, more than any other man in history, does he need to worry? After all, his closest rivals are getting older, too.

Rafael Nadal will turn 34 in June, but there may still be an autumnal French Open and he will be defending champion the next time the US Open is staged. He remains just one Grand Slam title behind Federer.

And then there is Novak Djokovic – soon to turn 33 and with 17 Grand Slams to his name. He has age on his side but may have lost the momentum which carried him to five of the last seven major titles.

The longer the interruption, the more everyone will feel in the same boat as Andy Murray, who has been able to play just 16 singles events since Wimbledon 2017. He had been toying with the idea of a return to the ATP Tour in Miami last week, hopeful that complications from his hip resurfacing operation were behind him.

But he did not rule out the need for further surgery the last time he spoke publicly. He now has a window for that, although there is no indication he needs nor intends to use it.

As for Serena Williams, she should not have to feel any pressure as a 23-time Grand Slam singles champion still competing at the age of 38. But inevitably she does, because even though no other active female player has more than seven she has made no secret of her desire to at least equal Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24.

It was on TikTok – in a one-minute video in which she modelled no fewer than five skirts from her wardrobe – that she admitted the pandemic had made her stressed and anxious, as well as short tempered with her daughter for coughing. She has talked about wanting to produce a sibling for Olympia. Seeing time slip away cannot be easy.

Finally, in case you are wondering who would have won the men’s singles at Wimbledon this year, I can reveal all, having been asked to provide some commentary on the winning moment for the BBC World Service.

Playing to the galleries, I had to have Federer in the final. Sticking to logic, Djokovic had to be his opponent once again.

Remarkably, Federer won the first set 6-0 and may well have taken the second on a tiebreak if it had not been for a breathtaking through the legs winner by Djokovic.

The Serb was just too good after that. So he remains unbeaten in 2020.

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Wimbledon chief hopeful of Roger Federer and Serena Williams appearance in 2021

Wimbledon chief executive Richard Lewis says he would love Roger Federer and Serena Williams to play in 2021’s Championships following this year’s cancellation due to the coronavirus pandemic.

On Wednesday, the All England Club confirmed the long-awaited decision to call off the tournament, which was due to start on June 29.

Federer and Williams were among the first players to react to the news, expressing their devastation and shock.

The two players have won Wimbledon a combined 15 times and are the biggest stars in the sport.

But with both of them turning 39 years old later this year, the finishing line on their careers is fast approaching.

Federer made clear he intends to be back at SW19 in 2021 but Williams has been coy over what her future holds.

However, Lewis, who is stepping down from his position in the summer, hopes the two greats will play at Wimbledon again.

He said: “We’d love to see both of them back.

“It’s something to look forward to, and we’ll hopefully enjoy it all the more, a silver lining to come out of it.”

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With the coronavirus situation continuing to develop, tennis remains in a state of flux given the global nature of the sport.

The ATP and WTA have extended the season suspension until July 13 but that is being regularly reviewed.

Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley recently expressed his fears the season may not resume again this year.

And while Lewis attempted to provide some optimism he conceded tennis must play a waiting game.

He added: “It’s a challenge for everybody. Let’s hope the US Open and Roland Garros can take place. It would be genuinely wonderful if the sport was off and running again.

“The optimist in me – and I am often not optimistic – still hopes the American hardcourt season, the big tournaments, the Masters and the Premiers, will take place: Montreal, Toronto and then Cincinnati. But we all know that’s probably tenuous at the moment.

“I don’t think it’s unrealistic to say that there may be no more tennis this year. But I would like to think that things will settle down so that tournaments can be played sooner rather than later.”

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Rafael Nadal learned severity of coronavirus threat during February chat with Bill Gates

Rafael Nadal realised that gravity of the coronavirus situation after speaking to Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates on his recent trip to South Africa. That is according to his uncle and former coach Toni Nadal.

In February, Nadal linked up with Gates, Roger Federer and Trevor Noah for an exhibition match in Cape Town.

And the quartet broke the record for the highest ever attendance at a tennis match.

Since then, the world has changed dramatically with the global outbreak of coronavirus.

More than 48,000 people have now died from the virus and the number of positive cases is rapidly approaching a million.

Nadal’s homeland of Spain has been badly hit with the death toll passing 9,000 on Wednesday.

The country is currently on lockdown and a state of emergency has been extended.

It means Nadal has been forced to stay indoors to protect himself until the spread slows.

Speaking in an interview with Spanish radio station Onda Cero, Toni opened up about the ongoing situation and revealed he had a sense things would get worse from what his nephew told him.

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He said: “My nephew when he was playing in South Africa in February spoke to Bill Gates and told him that what was happening in China was going to get complicated.

“Until there is a drug or a vaccine, I see the picture is quite complicated.

“We will live in a situation of uncertainty and danger until this is well managed.”

Following the cancellation of Wimbledon on Wednesday, the entire grass-court season was also scrapped including the Mallorca Open, where Toni is the tournament director.

But he stressed now was not the time to be worried about tennis.

He added: “At the moment I do not have the head for tennis.

“The last thing I was thinking about was the cancellation of the Mallorca Open.

“There will be more Wimbledon and more Mallorca, that is not worrying, the worrying thing is that many people are dying.”

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Wimbledon 2020 cancelled due to coronavirus

Wimbledon has been cancelled for the first time since the Second World War after an emergency meeting of the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC).

Talks took place on Wednesday to determine whether it would be possible to either stage the event, scheduled to begin on 29 June, as planned or postpone until a later date in the year once the coronavirus pandemic has subsided.

However, organisers reluctantly accepted that rescheduling the Grand Slam would prove too problematic, with the 134th Championships now set to be staged from 28 June to 11 July 2021.

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A statement released by the AELTC read: ”It is with great regret that the AELTC has today decided that The Championships 2020 will be cancelled due to public health concerns linked to the coronavirus epidemic.

“Uppermost in our mind has been the health and safety of all of those who come together to make Wimbledon happen – the public in the UK and visitors from around the world, our players, guests, members, staff, volunteers, partners, contractors, and local residents – as well as our broader responsibility to society’s efforts to tackle this global challenge to our way of life.

“Since the emergence of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in January, we have followed guidance from the UK Government and public health authorities in relation to our year-round operations, alongside developing an understanding of the likely trajectory of the outbreak in the UK.

“With the likelihood that the Government’s measures will continue for many months, it is our view that we must act responsibly to protect the large numbers of people required to prepare The Championships from being at risk – from the training of ball boys and girls to thousands of officials, line judges, stewards, players, suppliers, media and contractors who convene on the AELTC Grounds – and equally to consider that the people, supplies and services legally required to stage The Championships would not be available at any point this summer, thus ruling out postponement.”

Ian Hewitt, AELTC Chairman, added: “This is a decision that we have not taken lightly, and we have done so with the highest regard for public health and the wellbeing of all those who come together to make Wimbledon happen.

“It has weighed heavily on our minds that the staging of The Championships has only been interrupted previously by World Wars but, following thorough and extensive consideration of all scenarios, we believe that it is a measure of this global crisis that it is ultimately the right decision to cancel this year’s Championships, and instead concentrate on how we can use the breadth of Wimbledon’s resources to help those in our local communities and beyond.

“Our thoughts are with all those who have been and continue to be affected by these unprecedented times.”

More follows…

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Fabio Fognini makes Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic claim as he hits out at French Open

Italian star Fabio Fognini says it is ‘not healthy’ to make players compete in the French Open and US Open within a month. Amid fears that the French Open could be cancelled as a result of the global coronavirus pandemic, the French Tennis Federation (FFT) changed the date of the clay court Grand Slam from May to September.

As it stands, the French Open will now start one week after the men’s singles final at the US Open in New York.

Such a gap between tournaments has never occurred in the Open Era and it leaves players facing a decision over their schedule.

Players who favour clay over hard courts may look to save themselves for their preferred surface and vice versa.

There is also limited time for lower-ranked players to qualify for the French Open, especially if another clay court event is scheduled between the two majors.

For the top players like Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, who are chasing history, playing two Grand Slams may even be too much for them.

And in an interview with Italian publication La Stampa, Fognini voiced his disapproval at the situation.

“I don’t agree to play Roland Garros just a week after the US Open,” Fognini explained.

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“I understand it is needed to recover, but it is too close.

“I’m not talking about me, but for people like Nadal and Djokovic, who always get to the end.

“Playing four weeks of Slam in a month is not healthy.”

Fognini then revealed there is shared feeling among the players that playing while through the ongoing crisis would not have been right and dismissed the idea of matches behind closed doors.

He added: “I heard from so many people when the ATP had to decide what to do.

“Feliciano Lopez, who is also the director of the Madrid tournament, Stan Wawrinka, Grigor Dimitrov – we were all on the same wavelength, nobody wanted to play.

“Not even behind closed doors. Because sponsors matter a lot but we play for the public and it is the spectators who hold the tournaments.

“With empty stands, I played the Davis Cup in Cagliari and it was very sad.”

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Roger Federer retirement plea made as Wimbledon prepare to cancel Championship

Roger Federer’s hopes of winning another Wimbledon title have been dealt a blow as the tournament is expected to be cancelled with an announcement today.

Eight of the Swiss star’s 20 Grand Slam titles have been earned at the All England Club.

However, at 38 years old there may not be many more opportunities for the legend in Britain.

And rising star Jannik Sinner has pleaded with Federer to continue playing next year so he has a chance to face his idol on grass.

Sinner made his debut at Wimbledon last summer but was knocked out of the first round by Australian Alex Bolt.

The Italian was excited about returning to test himself on grass this year but there tournament is expected to be cancelled.

So he has sent a clear message to Federer pleading for any retirement plans to be put on hold.

“I send a message to Roger: ‘Play another year, so maybe our match is only postponed for twelve months’,” Sinner told Gazzetta dello Sport.

“Beating Federer in Wimbledon has always been one of my dreams.

“However, I hope to be able to play on Centre Court one day, I have yet to discover my worth on the grass.”

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World No 73 Sinner has been gradually climbing the rankings and he is enjoying mixing with the legends of the game.

Rafael Nadal asked the 18-year-old to practice with him at the Australian Open and the youngster claims he learned a lot.

“I trained with him in Melbourne and he impressed me how he holds the court,” Sinner said of Nadal. “I’d like to have his personality.”

Meanwhile, Sinner is couped up in his accommodation as most of Europe is locked down because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But when ATP tournaments get back underway he wants to continue how he left off.

“Playing immediately at these levels is certainly the most difficult road,” he said.

“In tennis you can go from winning a tournament to losing three first rounds in a row.

“So now the goal is continuity of results, daily application and improvement of all shots.”

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Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams Wimbledon claim made ahead of cancellation

Roger Federer and Serena Williams will be the biggest losers from the anticipated announcement that Wimbledon won’t take place this year. That is the view of former British player Annabel Croft.

Officials at the All England Club are scheduled to meet today to finally confirm the grass-court Grand Slam will be cancelled as a result of the global coronavirus pandemic.

Wimbledon would become the latest major sports event following the Tokyo Olympics and 2020 European Championships to be called off.

The tennis season is currently suspended until June but that is likely to be extended into July as the wait goes on before top-level sport can resume.

Wimbledon’s cancellation has significant ramifications for several players, most notably two of the biggest stars – Roger Federer and Serena Williams.

Federer and Williams have won the tournament eight and seven times respectively and view the event has their best chance of adding to their Grand Slam hauls.

Should the pair return to SW19 in 2021, they will both be 39 and almost certainly closing in on the finish line of their decorated careers.

And Croft believes Federer and Williams will be among the hardest hit by Wimbledon not taking place.

She said: “How many more times can Roger Federer realistically try to win Wimbledon? And if the French Open does take place later in the year, that benefits Nadal more than anybody potentially.

“And then you look at Serena and her best chance to win another Slam is on the grass courts at Wimbledon so that affects her as well. She is now 38 and has started a family.

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“There are so many different scenarios and question marks.

“And Andy Murray is going to miss another Wimbledon. It is going to make him re-think everything as well. It is a nightmare.”

Meanwhile, American No 1 John Isner says the prospect of Wimbledon not going ahead would be a “tough pill to swallow”.

“We’re hoping that they’re going to be somewhat optimistic about playing the event this year,” Isner told ESPN.

“I’d love to hear some optimism from them.

“We may have to come to grips with the fact that we may not be playing Wimbledon this year.

“It’s going to be a tough pill to swallow. Wimbledon sort of has to be played this (same) time of year.

“With that surface, the event, it seems, has to be played this time and there’s a good chance it won’t be.”

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Wimbledon cancellation to hamper record-breakers Federer and Serena Williams

The cancellation of Wimbledon will change tennis history by denying Roger Federer and Serena Williams the chance to break more records.

The All England Club is set to announce in the next 24 hours that the coronavirus will stop the staging of the The Championship for the first time since World War Two.

TV favourite Annabel Croft has seen Federer and Williams dominate the singles events over the past two decades – and insists Wimbledon is still their best chance to win more Majors.

The Swiss superstar holds the record of 20 Grand Slam titles for a male but he is now just one ahead of Rafa Nadal and three ahead of Australian Open winner Novak Djokovic.

And American great Williams has been stuck one short of Margaret Court's all-time record of 24 since January 2017.

Both tennis legends turn 40 next year.

And former British No.1 Croft said: “How many more times can Roger Federer realistically try to win Wimbledon?

“And if the French Open does take place later in the year, that benefits Nadal more than anybody potentially. And then you look at Serena and her best chance to win another Slam is on the grasscourts at Wimbledon so that affects her as well. She is now 38 and has started a family.

"There are so many different scenarios and question marks.
“And Andy Murray is going to miss another Wimbledon. It is going to make him re-think everything as well. It is a nightmare.”

Cancellation would see no top-level tennis until at least July 13.

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