The Minister of Sports in France, Roxana Maracineanu, recently weighed in on the scheduling of Roland Garros this year. Maracineanu claimed that a postponement of the claycourt Slam could be on the cards, given situation around the COVID-19 pandemic.
France is currently in the middle of another lockdown, which makes organizing of public events extremely tough. As of now the major sporting tournaments are still scheduled to go on as planned, but the sports ministry is contemplating whether to shift the French Open dates to a more feasible period.
"We are in discussion with them (the French Tennis Federation, which organises the event) to see if we should change the date to coincide with a possible resumption of all sports and major events," Maracineanu said. "Today, although high-level sport has been preserved, we try to limit the risks of clusters, of spreading the virus within professional sports."
The comments from the French minister come shortly after Gilles Moretton - the President of the French Tennis Federation - revealed that there is a small possibility that the French Open could be cancelled this year.
"At the moment, we are on track, the tournament is on the scheduled dates," Moretton said earlier this week. "But if we are told there is a general confinement for two months, we will necessarily have to take measures, the worst being the outright cancellation. But I dare not imagine that."
France's new lockdown regulations include a night curfew starting 7 pm, as well as restrictions on movement across distances greater than 10 km. Professional sporting competitions are still permitted, but with no crowds in stadiums.
Roland Garros 2021 schedule remains uncertain as France plans to lift lockdown only in May
As per Reuters, French President Emmanuel Macron is expecting to re-open the country by the second week of May, coinciding with the dates of the French Open (May 17 - June 6).
The 2020 edition of Roland Garros took place in October-November due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The event saw its crowd limits constantly lowered due to repeated new government restrictions leading up to the tournament, and it eventually hosted about 1,000 spectators on the ground per day.
However, a similar postponement of the 2021 event in Paris could be problematic. Other events across the tour are set to take place at their regularly scheduled dates, as opposed to 2020, so there aren't many free windows on the calendar.
Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer - the biggest draws in men's tennis - all have points to lose in Paris this summer. While the Spaniard is the four-time reigning champion, Djokovic is defending his runner-up finish from 2020, and Federer is defending points from his semifinal run in 2019.
Cancellation or postponement of the tournament could cause problems for each of the trio's planned schedules over the summer, during which there will be a full European clay season all the way up to Wimbledon.