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By Richard Pagliaro | Wednesday, March 11, 2019

Nadal and Federer

Roland Garros tournament director Guy Forget concedes the clay-court calendar is at risk and says the French Tennis Federation will not decide if the French Open plays as scheduled.

Photo credit: Roland Garros Facebook

The Coronavirus cut down Indian Wells this week.

If the coronavirus outbreak continues, could it threaten Roland Garros' status?

More: BNP Paribas Open Cancelled

The clay-court Grand Slam is set to start in Paris on May 24th.

Ultimately, Roland Garros' status will be determined by the French government and medical experts—not the French Tennis Federation—says tournament director Guy Forget.

"We will explore all the possibilities but, in any case, the decision will not be up to the French Federation," Forget told French publication L'Equipe. "We will follow the recommendations."

On Sunday, France banned gatherings of 1,000 or more people in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Protests and public transportation may be excluded from the ban because they are considered "useful" to the country's culture said French health minister Olivier Véran, who added other "useful" events may be permitted.

“Prefects and ministries will come up with lists of events considered useful,” 
Véran said in comments published by France 24.

Roland Garros tournament director Forget concedes the clay-court calendar is at risk.

Italy is in lockdown due to the coronavirus.

The season's first Masters clay-court tournament, the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, is scheduled to start on April 12th. Monaco borders northern Italy. The Italian Open in Rome is set to start on May 10th.

While we saw Davis Cup ties in Japan and Italy played behind closed doors without spectators last weekend, Forget suggests the prospect of a "ghost" Grand Slam with Paris proceeding without fans is unlikely.

"Inevitably, the tournaments scheduled for the coming weeks are all exposed. Organized behind closed doors? It would also be a problem," Forget told L'Equipe. "Would it be economically viable? By the time of Roland-Garros, there is time left but at the same time things will move will happen quickly."

After the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells became the first major American sporting event cancelled by the coronavirus, the Royal Tennis Federation reacted to coronavirus concerns by banning spectators from all professional tennis matches in Spain until further notice.

“The RFET notifies that all tournaments must be played behind closed doors due to government measures against the coronavirus,” it said in a statement. “In accordance with the preventive measures adopted by the Government of Spain in view of the situation generated by the expansion of the Covid-19 coronavirus, the Ministry of Culture and Sports has urged the Spanish Sports Federations to hold behind closed doors all competitions and sporting events, both Professionals as non-professional.”

The ATP announced its calendar "beyond Indian Wells remains as status quo."

"While we regret that the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells will not take place, the ATP Tour calendar beyond Indian Wells remains as status quo,” said ATP CEO Andrea Gaudenzi. “We continue to monitor the situation daily, working closely with our player and tournament members with the understanding that direction must be taken from local public health authorities.

"We are committed to exploring all options for the operation of upcoming tournaments as the health and safety of our players and all other stakeholders remain our top priority. Any further updates will be communicated on ATP platforms."

Earlier on Monday the Miami Open, slated to start on March 23rd, released a statement saying that it still intends to stage the tournament.

“Safety remains a top priority, and we are monitoring the COVID-19 situation closely with local, state and federal officials and health organizations in the lead up to the tournament,” the tournament said in a statement.

Florida has more reported coronavirus cases than the Coachella Valley home of the BNP Paribas Open.

Prior to Indian Wells' cancellation, the tournament announced some safety measures, including banning ball kids from touching players' towels, gloves for officials and plans for 250 hand sanitizers throughout the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

Are we facing a short-term future of tournament tennis without fans as we saw in Davis Cup?

Or will more tournament cancellations metastasize as the outbreak spreads?

Tennis Express

French Tennis Federation director general  
Jean-François Vilotte told L'Equipe "different scenarios" are under consideration to decrease risk of COVID-19 contamination, including limiting ticket-holders' access to restricted areas, handing out surgical masks, and reconfiguring pedestrian flow on site to reduce high concentration of fans.

"We are on a 13 hectare site which allows the flow of spectators to be organized in a very different way from football stadiums," 
Vilotte told L'Equipe.


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