The French Open will allow a limited number of spectators at Roland Garros in Paris when it begins at the end of September, the French Tennis Federation announced on Monday, despite a surge in cases across the country that reached new heights on Friday.
- After the qualifying rounds, which will be played behind closed doors, two sites at the stadium complex, the Philippe-Chatrier and Suzanne-Lenglen, will admit 5,000 spectators, while the smaller Simonne-Mathieu site will allow 1,500.
- Face masks will be required for everyone over the age of 11, and every other seat between groups will be left empty.
- Players, their entourage and tournament staff will be tested before and during the tournament, and players are further required to stay at one of two specific hotels.
- The news comes as France, like other European neighbors, deals with a resurgence of the coronavirus, with a new daily record of 8,975 cases on Friday.
- The French Open, usually held in the spring, will be the third Grand Slam of 2020 and the second since the start of the pandemic, the first being the U.S. Open, which is going on now without spectators.
- Sports leagues have taken different paths in returning to play, with the MLB, allowing for traveling between ballparks but not allowing spectators, occasionally struggling with outbreaks, while the NBA and NHL have successfully avoided any cases in their "bubble" environments in Orlando, Edmonton and Toronto.
"We want our tournament to be truly remarkable and to set an example, from all angles," said French Tennis Federation Director General Jean-François Vilotte. "By setting an example with our tournament, we hope to prove that we can get the economy back on track, though it goes without saying that certain conditions and certain restrictions must be respected."
France was one of the hardest-hit countries in the early goings of the Covid-19 pandemic, causing the government to institute a strict lockdown. It's now 13th in the world in confirmed cases with 367,095 but seventh in reported deaths with 30,732, according to Johns Hopkins University. In total, there are 27.2 million confirmed cases of the virus globally and 889,682 reported deaths.
The big story out of the U.S. Open is Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic, the No. 1 men's player, defaulting on Sunday after striking a ball out of anger and accidentally hitting a lineswoman in the throat, making it the first Grand Slam since 2004 not to feature Djokovic, Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer in the semifinals. Djokovic sparked controversy in June after organizing an exhibition tournament without social distancing protocols and soon after tested positive for Covid-19, along with several others who took part.