Ameile Mauresmo admits French Open forgot about fans after Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic epic went on to 1.15am left thousands stranded in Paris and unable to get home
- Fans were left stranded after Nadal’s late night clash with and Djokovic
- In the case of the tennis there is a lack of thought about the scheduling
- Tournament director Ameile Mauresmo admits they forgot about fans
From French Open tournament director, there were two startling admissions this morning.
The first, in the wake of an early hours classic between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, was that little thought has been given to how spectators get home after the new night sessions at Roland Garros.
The second, addressing why men’s matches have outnumbered women’s 9-1 in the new late evening slot, saw her break what can be a taboo within tennis. She fairly bluntly conceded that, presently, the male contests are generally more appealing.
French Open tournament director Ameile Mauresmo (R) admits they forgot about fans
Certainly nothing could match the unique draw of Nadal versus Djokovic. That ended at 1.15am this morning, with temperatures in the mid-fifties and many spectators huddled under blankets like pensioners on a windswept seafront.
With a 9.03pm start time what did the French Open expect? Infact it could have been much later, with the preceding match narrowly avoiding a fifth set, just like Djokovic should have taken Nadal into a decider.
The scene afterwards was of thousands of punters desperately trying to find a way home, something Mauresmo and her team appear not to have factored in.
‘That will be one of our priorities in the future,’ she said. ‘We haven’t planned anything yet, but obviously we need to organise ourselves differently with the Department of Transport of Paris with bus systems, the underground system.
‘If we continue with these night sessions in this direction, people need to have a way to come back home, as they should. We do not have the means to organise this for 15,000 people yet. For the moment, there is nothing.’
It should be said that there are scarier places to be stranded in Paris during the early hours than the 16th Arrondisement that is home to this beautiful stadium.
Fans were left stranded after the late-night match between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic
That Stade de France in St. Denis, for example. It would be wrong to draw too much equivalence between the frightening plight of Liverpool and Madrid supporters last weekend, and those stumbling around for non-existent taxis in one of the city’s plusher suburbs.
There is no doubting, however, that it has amounted to five days which raise questions about France’s competence to host sports events ahead of the 2023 World Cup and 2024 Olympics and Paralympics. (Albeit after Wembley last summer we should be mindful about throwing stones).
In the case of the tennis there is a lack of thought about the scheduling, and Mauresmo agreed that they needed to start earlier.
This really should not have been hard to work out, but it is a strange phenomenon throughout tennis that tournament officials seem the last people to understand how long modern day matches last for, especially on clay. Perhaps it is the 24-hour, chauffeur-driven transport they all get that makes them oblivious.
There also appears little consideration for the fact that people have lives to lead, work to go to and children to look after. And how many millions of TV viewers in Europe were simply too tired to stay up for the thrilling denouement of Nadal versus Djokovic?
In the case of the tennis there is a lack of thought about the scheduling at Roland Garros
A more fundamental problem is that, unlike at the US or Australian Opens, the weather in northern Europe at this time of year is climatically unsuited to late night tennis.
That will not stop them selling an extra night ticket to furnish viewers of Amazon Prime, not when the broadcasters are paying a reported 12.5 million Euros for the privilege.
Amazon’s supposed commitment to gender quality did not survive its first collision with commercial reality in the tennis business. Ninety per cent of the matches chosen for the ten sessions were the men.
Mauresmo – who has upset men’s coaches here by banning them from the locker rooms, on the basis that it is unfair on those who have one of a different sex – did not try too hard to hide the reason.
‘In this era that we are in right now, I don’t feel – and as a woman, former woman’s player, I don’t feel bad or unfair saying -that right now you have more attraction, can you say that, appeal? That’s the general(ity), for the men’s matches,’ she said.
Meanwhile daytime broadcaster France TV were left furious at being deprived of the Nadal-Djokovic clash, feeling it a betrayal of their longstanding collaboration with the FFT (French Tennis Federation).
Mauresmo, the 2006 Wimbledon champion, has been dropped into the job with little experience, and being the frontperson for this iconic sports event does not seem to sit easily. She has not been helped by the recent departure of FFT Chief Executive Amelie Oudea-Castera, who has become Sports Minister in the Macron government.
The same Oudea-Castera will need to see the host nation raising its game in sports organisation after the past five days.
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