Organisers of this year’s French Open said the modernisation of the Roland Garros site – which includes the installation of a roof on the main Court Philippe Chatrier – has enabled the Grand Slam tennis event to be rescheduled to the autumn.

The competition is held in Paris each May, but the French Tennis Federation (FFT) announced on Tuesday that it is not possible to proceed at the usual time of year due to the coronavirus outbreak. The 2020 competition will now be held from September 20 to October 4.

While inclement weather and a loss of daylight hours might have made the switch impossible in the past, the installation of the retractable roof and improved lighting on all four main courts in time for the 2020 tournament means play will be possible in the autumn.

“We have made a difficult yet brave decision in this unprecedented situation, which has evolved greatly since last weekend. We are acting responsibly, and must work together in the fight to ensure everybody’s health and safety,” said Bernard Giudicelli, president of the FFT.

 

AFL

While the French Open joins almost all other major sporting events in being delayed or cancelled, this year’s Australian Football League (AFL) will begin as planned this week.

The season will commence with the traditional Richmond-Carlton opener on Thursday at the 100,000-capacity MCG in Melbourne.

AFL commissioners voted today (Wednesday) to start the season as per normal after Prime Minister Scott Morrison gave them the opportunity to make their own decision despite mass gatherings of more than 100 people being banned across the country.

The AFL Players Association advised the AFL on Tuesday its players wanted to start the season, as did club chief executives in a teleconference on Wednesday morning.

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan announced the league had come to its decision after “wide consultation” with the football industry, Australia’s chief medical officer and government representatives.

The decision came two days after the AFL commission had reduced the 2020 season from 22 matches per club to 17 in a bid to provide flexibility on scheduling in a season which is likely to be severely interrupted.

Last week the Australian Grand Prix Formula One event, held in Melbourne, was also cancelled, but McLachlan said he didn’t feel the AFL was placing itself above others with its decision to play on.

“I don’t think so. I think the distinction is that it’s entirely consistent with the policy and position of our government, both state and federal, and it’s consistent with what the chief medical officer told us today that his strategy for dealing with this crisis is that industry goes forward,” he said.

“That we can’t stand still, and that was incredibly compelling for the commission to hear that this morning.

“The Prime Minister said this morning that we can’t lock ourselves in our house. If that was the view, that we’re going into lockdown and that was the best way forward, then we would have followed that. But that wasn’t the advice.”

 

Horse racing

Meanwhile, the head of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) said all racing in the UK has been cancelled after it was “asked essentially by the government to not put a drain on public services.”

All meetings have been cancelled until the end of April, meaning major events such as the Grand National will not be held.

Nick Rust, the BHA’s chief executive, said in interview with Racing TV: “In order to race, we need ambulances, but not only that, we need the resources of the NHS to support it. We need to support the national effort, and look after all the people who work in the sport and customers of the sport as best we can.

“We had been preparing to go behind closed doors for some time. We had kept up with government advice, that’s what we followed all the way through. Last week, the government was fully onside with us racing at Cheltenham, but things moved.”

Image: Christophe Guibbaud/FFT