French Open pushed back one week because of pandemic

Sports

FILE PHOTO: Tennis – French Open – Roland Garros, Paris, France – October 11, 2020 Runner up Novak Djokovic of Serbia alongside French Open winner Rafael Nadal of Spain as they are presented with their trophies after the final REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo

PARIS (AP) — The French Open tennis tournament will be delayed by one week because of the coronavirus pandemic, organizers said Thursday.

The clay-court Grand Slam tournament was set to start on May 23, but first-round matches will now get underway on May 30. The French tennis federation said the decision was taken in order to maximize chances the event will be played “in front of as many spectators as possible” in a safe environment.

The move came as as coronavirus cases surge in France and hospitals approach saturation. To slow down the pace of infections, new nationwide restrictions have been enforced, including a three-week school closure, a month-long domestic travel ban and the closing of non-essential shops.

“This postponement will give us a little more time to improve the health situation and should allow us to optimize our chances of welcoming spectators at Roland Garros,” said Gilles Moretton, the president of the French tennis federation. “Whether for the fans, the players or the atmosphere, crowd presence is essential to the tournament, the first international sporting event of the spring.”

Last year’s tournament had been pushed back to September because of the health crisis, with crowds limited to 1,000 per day.

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