ATP chief hoping for French Open in September

Roland Garros (File)
Roland Garros (File)

ATP chairperson Andrea Gaudenzi said on Thursday he hopes the clay-court season and French Open can be played in September as tennis scrambles to salvage a season in danger of being wiped out by the coronavirus pandemic.

"If we manage to start again in August, we'll save three Slams and six Masters 1000, otherwise the problems will increase tenfold," Gaudenzi said in an interview with several Italian media outlets.

"We are working on the hypothesis of four weeks on clay after the US Open, with Madrid and Rome before Roland Garros."

Tennis has been in lockdown since early last month and is not scheduled to return until July 13 at the earliest following the cancellation of Wimbledon for the first time since World War II.

The decision to axe the sport's oldest and most prestigious Grand Slam event followed the French Open's unilateral switch from its traditional May-June slot to September-October.

Gaudenzi said no sanctions would be taken against Roland Garros for taking the decision alone to postpone.

"Now we are working together," Gaudenzi, 43, who took over as ATP chief in January, told Gazzetta Dello Sport.

"Tennis needs unity, Paris acted out of fear, making a mistake. But they have recognised this." 

All this will depend on the virus which has killed more than 87 000 people and infected over 1.5 million with the United States and Europe hit hardest.

"We have made 50 versions of the calendar that we change day by day," said Gaudenzi. 

"I am confident that the season in America can begin with the August Masters 1000 in Toronto and Cincinnati and then the US Open.

"In this way three Slams and six Masters 1000 would be played (there are also Shanghai and Bercy) and the season would be 70 percent safe.

"Of course, if the whole American slot were to skip, the difficulties would increase tenfold." 

Gaudenzi said the options were being examined in conjunction with the ATP Player Council including Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

He stressed it was hoped to maintain the ATP Finals, scheduled for London in November 15-22.

"The 02 Arena is only available in the week already fixed. I don't like closed doors, it's the last resort."

To offset the blow to lower-ranked players and tournaments the ATP are also studying financial measures to help.

"Our system is solid, it can last a year without tennis, but not more than," the ATP chief warned. 

"(But) talking about August, September, November is all hypothetical, we can't bang our heads against the wall for something that maybe won't even happen, because we could even start next year."

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