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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Friday September 18, 2020

Anybody ready for some clay court tennis????! Whether you are ready or not, the time is now for Roland Garros. In 2020, for the first time in the tournament’s history, the French Open will be played in a different time slot. Roland Garros has been cancelled before, for World War I and World War II, but never has it been played in the fall.

Tennis Express

Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, that changes in 2020. What will the tournament look like at the beginning of Autumn? Here are six reasons it won’t be the same—not even close.

1. Rafa’s Quest

Rafael Nadal—he of the 93-2 lifetime record and 12 titles—will be at his familiar stomping grounds in Paris, but this year will be different because the Spaniard will be bidding for his 20th major title. Considering the fact that Roger Federer had four major titles before Nadal had one, we could say that this is a quest that has played out over time. Can Rafa get it done in Paris? He’s virtually unbeatable on the terre battue, and only seems to lose every seven years, so the odds seem pretty good. But… he has not played much tennis since February (except for his two wins in Rome as of this post) and will not get the normal three or four week romp through the European clay season that he typically enjoys. So he’ll have to hit his high gear quicker than usual in 2020.

2. It could be colder than ever at Roland Garros

Nadal may not have as many of those sun-baked, balmy days that he prefers because Roland Garros is taking place late September and early October. Shorter days and colder, rainier conditions should mean that the courts in Paris will play slower in general (Nadal’s quarterfinal with Diego Schwartzman, played in heavy, wet conditions on the first day, comes to mind, as does his 2012 final with Roland Garros, that saw Djokovic gaining ground before rain stopped play). What that means is that it might be tougher for Nadal to use his punishing topspin as a weapon in Paris this year. It’s not like the Spaniard doesn’t have all the tools to handle any challenges that come his way, but Rafa might have to rely a bit more on his tactics and his defense if conditions are slow in Paris.

3. There’s a roof!

There will not be any night sessions in 2020 at Roland Garros, those won’t happen until 2021, but there are lights on the biggest show courts which means that matches can continue into the evening. That will be incredibly important this year because sunset in Paris comes over two hours earlier than it does in late spring (about 7:45 PM). So expect some tennis under the lights. It will be different, to say the least, and much like Wimbledon’s roof and the roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium, it will introduce a whole new set of playing conditions that the pros will have to adapt to.

4. Who has the edge in this brave, new French Open?

Like the 37 bridges over the Seine in Paris, we’ll cross them when we get to them. Players that aren’t good clay-courters might be even worse this year, due to the abbreviated two-week clay season, which will make it extremely difficult for players who’ve just arrived from the US Open to get their games together on a surface that is already tricky for them. Some players are better than others at adapting quickly, we’ll find out who they are in time.

We’re thinking that means: ADVANTAGE NATURAL CLAY-COURTERS…

Players like Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Dominic Thiem, Garbiñe Muguruza and Simona Halep. Those who grew up on clay and can slide on the surface in their sleep should not mind that they are getting less time to play matches on clay before Roland Garros starts.

5. Thiem’s Time?

A fifth reason that Roland Garros will be different this year is the fact that Dominic Thiem is now a Grand Slam champion. How much will that fact matter? It remains to be seen, but it’s easy to imagine that the field will be slightly more challenging for all men with Thiem now brimming with confidence. At the moment, the Austrian is the most in-form player on the tour, with the most match play under his belt. We think it will change the dynamic a bit on the men’s side for sure.

Is there an equivalent on the women’s side? Defending champ Ash Barty won’t be playing, so there’s that. Naomi Osaka is also out. Is Simona Halep a dominant enough force to make a beeline to her second title in Paris? It’s not out of the realm of possibility but the depth of the women’s field might have other ideas about that.

All we know is: we can’t wait to find out.

6. Last but not least, this Roland Garros will be unlike any other because it will have a bubble.

And unlike the US Open there will not be private housing. That’s tough news for players like Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic, who really enjoyed the private housing in New York, and didn’t mind the expense.

The tournament, at last check, will host 5,000 spectators per day on the grounds (as of early this week), and that number is down from the 11,500 that had originally been planned. With coronavirus cases rising in France, we don’t know if the tournament will be able to pull it off that number.

Let’s hope we have some fans, an air-tight bubble and plenty of jaw-dropping clay-court tennis. And if the rains come, let’s hope it holds off til the second week…


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