First off, this much is clear: The Federation Francaise de Tennis was absolutely right to postpone the French Open to a later date. It couldn’t have opened the gates of Roland Garros on May 24 as originally planned given community quarantine protocols in place due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. And with cancellation as an acceptable alternative only in a worst-case scenario, it settled on postponement instead. From its vantage point, it had an obligation to host the major tournament even at the expense of tradition. At least the crown jewel of the clay court season would be moved and not scuttled altogether.
That said, organizers were wrong to schedule the French Open to the fortnight beginning September 20 absent any consultation whatsoever with the sport’s other stakeholders. Because they unilaterally changed the date, they wound up spreading the logistical nightmares they foresee in staging the Grand Slam event in autumn. Even a cursory glance at the calendar they amended shows the havoc they wreaked. And because originally confirmed stops, including the Laver Cup, are affected, participants will be compelled to choose accordingly at risk of damaging relations any which way.
It’s a bind, really, that the FFT could have avoided had it first opted to touch base with the Association of Tennis Professionals and Women’s Tennis Association. Contractual obligations compel their members to suit up for the French Open and not with a conflicting spectacle, but the Laver Cup is one they have backed for a reason. And then there is the question of others doing the same and acting on self-interest. The United States Open, for instance, should be done by September 8. But what if it isn’t and needs to be moved? What if there’s an overlap?
Interestingly, French Open tournament director Guy Forget took pains to inform defending champion Rafael Nadal of the postponement. How and why the information did not reach others, especially since the clay court legend is a member of the ATP Player Council, figures to be the subject of speculation. Nonetheless, there can be no discounting the impact of the FFT’s decision. Already rocking in the present and struggling to hold on to any semblance of normalcy in the future, the sport is further threatened by an utterly avoidable development. How it copes in the immediate term may well determine if it improves or implodes.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.