Roland Garros will only be allowed to let in 1,000 fans per day for the final Grand Slam of a chaotic 2020 season.
Organisers had hoped for as many as 5,000 to be allowed through the gates at Roland Garros but with virus cases surging in Paris, authorities were not prepared to take that risk.
Roland Garros to welcome limited fans
The limit of 1,000 fans per day represents less than 3% of last year’s total Roland Garros attendance of almost 520,000.
Roland Garros chief Guy Forget described the decision as a ‘tough blow’ but promised to forge ahead with the third and final Grand Slam of 2020.
“We’ve taken note of the government’s decision. We’re ready, all the players are here, but it’s true it’s a tough blow for the tournament,” Forget told France Info.
The French government are currently employing a ‘Red Zone’ strategy similar to the hotspot methods used elsewhere, and the government has said exceptions would not be made even for an event synonymous with France.
“We will apply the same rules at Roland Garros as elsewhere,” said French Prime Minister Jean Castex. “We go from 5,000 to 1,000.”
Forget expressed the hope that the 5,000 fan limit would be protected believing that the nature of the Roland Garros complex would work in the tournament’s favour.
“We are able to accommodate 5,000, as small as it is, on a 12-hectare area,” he said.
“We stage the tournament on the equivalent of 15 football fields, outdoors. Everyone wears a mask, even the ball boys and girls and chair umpires.”
The reduction is expected to deal a hammer blow to the French Tennis Federation (FFT). The FFT draws over 80 per cent of its revenue from what is usually the second Grand Slam of the year. The pandemic has already forced the tournament to move out of its prime slot at the outset of the French summer.
The US Open in New York ended just under two weeks ago, having banned all spectators from its sprawling Flushing Meadows complex while Wimbledon was cancelled for the first time since World War II earlier this year.
In men’s singles defending champion, Rafael Nadal will begin his campaign against 83rd-ranked Belarusian Egor Gerasimov. Nadal could equal Roger Federer’s all-time record of 20 Grand Slams with the Swiss star missing out on the tournament.
Defending women’s champion and world number one Ashleigh Barty of Australia is skipping this year’s French Open over health fears.