Seven months after an exceptionally autumnal 2020 edition, Roland-Garros opens on Sunday on its spring dates and in front of more than 5,000 spectators. But the Covid-19 pandemic is once again affecting the Parisian Grand Slam, in particular its brand new night sessions.
Spectators by the thousands …
Last fall, there were only a thousand lucky people elected to be able to sit in the stands of Roland-Garros every day. From this Sunday, they will be precisely 5.388 to take place there. And from June 9, up to just over 13,000 (for a maximum capacity of over 38,000 daily spectators).
This is the result of the one week delay of the Paris tournament, decided at the beginning of April by the French Tennis Federation (FFT) and which makes it possible to take advantage of the next phase of the deconfinement carried out by the government. The result also of meticulous legal searches which led to the identification, within the Roland-Garros enclosure, of six administrative units (ERP-PA) from which the maximum spectator gauges are defined (35% with a ceiling of 1,000 people until June 8 inclusive, 65% with a ceiling of 5,000 after).
In detail, these spaces are formed by the three main courts (Philippe-Chatrier, Suzanne-Lenglen and Simonne-Mathieu), courts 2 to 5, 6 to 9 and 10 to 14. Between them, a “free movement” but rigorous flow management, specify the organizers.
In total, under these conditions, close to 120,000 admissions throughout the fortnight. Much more than the 15,000 in 2020, but far from the some 520,000 recorded in 2019 before the pandemic.
“We are nevertheless happy to be able to count on a significant gauge despite everything, welcomed mid-May the new general manager of the FFT, Amélie Oudéa-Castera. It has been a long time since we had seen such levels of presence of the public.”
For those who will make the trip from June 9, there will be an unprecedented constraint inherited from the pandemic, however: access conditional on the presentation of a health pass (negative test of less than 48 hours, certificate of vaccination or remission ). A life-size test for this government device.
… but nocturnal sessions under curfew
This is the great novelty of this Roland Garros: the entry into the scene of night sessions, already in place at the Australian Open and the US Open. If Melbourne and New York open them around 7 p.m. and schedule two matches there, Roland-Garros has opted for a different format: a single poster, from 9 p.m.
The other significant change is that to watch this match played on the night of Paris (as well as to follow all of those scheduled on the Simonne-Mathieu court), you will have to go through the paid Amazon platform, which in got the rights for three years.
But here too, the health restrictions weigh heavily: without exemption from the curfew, set at 9 pm until June 8 inclusive, the first nine “night sessions” in the history of the Parisian Grand Slam will be held behind closed doors. Only the last one, June 9, with the fourth men’s quarter-final and launched exceptionally at 8 p.m., will benefit from the curfew at 11 p.m. and will take place under the eyes of 5,000 spectators.
Before that date, if the matches scheduled for the day could not end with the approach of curfew, the public should leave the stadium no later than 8:30 p.m.
Players still under bubble
No exception to the two official hotels, access to the stadium only on match days and two maximum accreditations for those around them (in singles): like last fall, the players will experience a Roland-Garros under a health bubble. and players.
On their arrival in Paris, and unless they are vaccinated, “they will go directly to the hotel” to be tested “and when their result is announced, they will receive their accreditation”, then they will go through the test box again. PCR “every four days”, details tournament director Guy Forget.
Their only space of freedom, “an hour a day, he replies, to go for a jog or to get some fresh air”.