The 2021 French Open tennis tournament will be delayed by one week, a source close to the organisers said on Wednesday.
The clay-court Grand Slam event was set to begin on May 23, but will now get underway on May 30 in the hope of more fans being able to attend at Roland Garros.
Last year’s French Open was delayed by four months and held in September and October instead of its longstanding May-June slot. Crowds were limited to just 1,000 spectators each day.
Coronavirus restrictions were tightened across France last Wednesday although all professional sport is carrying on, albeit behind closed doors. President Emmanuel Macron has expressed a wish to re-open cinemas, museums and theatres in mid-May.
On Tuesday, the French sports ministry told AFP the government was discussing a possible delay of “a few days”.
French player Alize Cornet hit out at sports minister Roxana Maracineanu and Macron’s government over the postponement.
“It stays between us but our sport minister is a disaster. Sorry,” Cornet told the Tennis Channel after her second-round win over Elise Mertens at the WTA event in Charleston in the United States on Wednesday.
“I’m sorry, I have nothing against her but she only takes bad decisions for sport like she doesn’t care. And I know it comes from the government, I’m pretty sure.
“(It) might come also from the tournament because I heard they might have more people if they postpone for one week.
“But still, I think it’s a pretty selfish decision to be honest because the calendar is going to suffer from this postponement.”
Last month, Gilles Moretton, the new president of the French Tennis Federation (FFT), said he “dared not” consider an outright cancellation.
“If we go into total lockdown for two months, we will obviously need to take measures – the worst being the outright cancellation, but I dare not imagine that,” he said.
Rafael Nadal will defend his title after winning a record-extending 13th French Open last year, while Iga Swiatek of Poland is the reigning women’s champion.
Last season, the professional tours were suspended from March until August, with Wimbledon cancelled.
This year’s Australian Open was postponed by three weeks, although Wimbledon is still scheduled to take place in its usual slot, starting on June 28.
The new French Open dates should not significantly affect the grass-court season, although the initial Wimbledon warm-up events start on June 7, midway through Roland Garros.
There will now only be two-week breaks between the French Open final and the start of Wimbledon.
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