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Tennis: More fans and sunny skies as French Open makes rapid return

Tennis: More fans and sunny skies as French Open makes rapid return

Spectators wearing face masks during the 2020 French Open final between Spain’s Rafael Nadal and Serbia’s Novak Djokovic at Roland-Garros in Paris on Oct 11, 2020. (File photo: Reuters/Christian Hartmann)

PARIS: Seven months after the last French Open ended, the tournament returns on Sunday (May 30), boosted by forecasts of good weather and the prospect of more spectators despite ongoing COVID-19 restrictions.

After a chilly 2020 tournament that was postponed to September and October because of the coronavirus pandemic and held with a maximum of 1,000 fans a day, this year's clay court Grand Slam will welcome more spectators.

Up to 1,000 will be admitted into each of the three main Roland-Garros show courts while the smaller venues will be able to fill 35 per cent of their capacity during the first 10 days.

The limit will be raised to 65 per cent but capped at 5,000 for matches on the 15,000-capacity Philippe Chatrier and 10,000-seater Suzanne Lenglen courts from Jun 9 when the quarter-finals get underway, with spectators allowed to attend the last of 10 night sessions.

For the first time, the "match of the day" will be scheduled at 9pm local time (3am the next day, Singapore time), but the 9pm curfew in France will only be pushed back to 11pm on Jun 9.

Spectators will need to show a pass with either a negative COVID-19 test result or a vaccination certificate.

The tournament was initially scheduled for May 23 to Jun 6, but was postponed by a week to allow more spectators to attend.

"With these new dates, we want to make Roland-Garros 2021 the symbol of rebirth," French tennis federation president Gilles Moretton said.

"We hope to be the first major sporting event in France to welcome the public again, while guaranteeing the best possible health safety for everyone."

There will, however, be a comforting feel of deja vu as Roger Federer returns to Roland-Garros after skipping the tournament last year, bidding to add to his record tally of 20 Grand Slam titles.

He shares the record with Spain's Rafael Nadal, the 13-time French Open champion who on Thursday was present for the unveiling of a statue in his honour next to the main Philippe Chatrier court.

Returning to the Parisian clay courts is also the mixed doubles event that was scrapped last year because of the pandemic.

Source: Reuters/kg

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