Roland Garros lies deserted before September 20 startSports | 25 May 2020 2:46 pm
Not Sunday at the French Open. Nobody was there. Maybe they will be in September.
It should have been the first day of the clay-court Grand Slam tournament held annually at Roland Garros _ with thousands flocking to catch a glimpse of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic or Serena Williams.
Instead, the grounds in leafy western Paris were deserted on a sunny, blue-sky day because of the coronavirus pandemic.
"Every year it's Roland Garros time, it's a bit like tennis fever. I was looking forward to seeing quality tennis and having a day out again. There's a certain mood, an atmosphere,'' said 34-year-old Hector Snowman, who attended the tournament in 2019. ``You see stars walking around there, it feels like a privilege to be there. Everyone's expecting a French player to do well and they have their favorites like (Roger) Federer.''
Court Philippe Chatrier, where 15,000 fans cheered Nadal's record-extending 12th title last June, wouldn't have needed the new roof that was supposed to debut in case of rain this year.
Viewed from outside, peering through one of the site's imposing iron gates, the towering roof looked grandiose with its 11 large sections, each 110 meters long and weighing 330 tons.
Also visible: construction equipment left behind when France went into lockdown on March 17 littering the inside of Roland Garros.
In early February, the French Tennis Federation proudly released a video to announce the roof was ready. A few weeks later, people were sheltering in place as the nation went into confinement. Soccer, rugby and tennis events all got called off.
If the French Open does start as hoped on September 20, it might have to be played with no spectators present on the 17 courts for health and safety reasons. The maze-like grounds of Roland Garros are narrow, crammed, stuffy and sinewy, making social distancing impossible.
That would mean 10,000 fans missing out on watching Djokovic or Nadal on Court Suzanne Lenglen in the early rounds, and it would dash the FFT's hopes of beating the record 520,000 fans who came to watch last year.-AP