The start of the Roland Garros 2021 has been officially pushed back by a week, due to the current COVID-19 situation in France. Main draw action at the year's second Grand Slam is now scheduled to start on 30 May (instead of the original 23 May), and finish on 13 June.
The qualifying rounds of the 2021 French Open will take place from 24 to 28 May.
The main reason for pushing back the start of the tournament was to give the players enough health and safety assurances given the ongoing lockdown in France. The organizers also wished to host as many fans as possible at Roland Garros, which might not have been possible with a 23 May start date.
Gilles Moretton, President of the French Tennis Federation, spoke on these lines in a recent press release. Moretton stressed the importance of fans being able to attend the 2021 French Open.
"It (the postponement) will give the health situation more time to improve and should optimise our chances of welcoming spectators at Roland Garros, into our newly-transformed stadium that now covers more than 30 acres," Moretton said. "For the fans, the players and the atmosphere, the presence of spectators is vital for our tournament, the spring’s most important international sporting event."
As things stand, Roland Garros 2021 will end exactly two weeks before Wimbledon is scheduled to commence. That is a very short turnaround time, which might force some players to skip the preparatory events on grass.
That said, the Grand Slam Board - which includes members from the four Slams - unanimously threw its weight behind the decision to postpone the French Open. Ugo Valensi, the Executive Director of the Grand Slam Board, revealed that all four Majors supported the French Tennis Federation's decision to push Roland Garros back by a week.
"The Grand Slams represent the most significant spotlights for our sport and so we will do everything possible to ensure they can be staged successfully," Valensi said. "Further to consultation, the decision by the FFT to postpone Roland Garros by a week in order to enhance the likelihood of the tournament taking place successfully is therefore fully supported by the Grand Slam Board."
What the postponement of Roland Garros 2021 could mean for Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and other Wimbledon aspirants
With a packed summer schedule ahead, it seems unlikely that Wimbledon will follow in Roland Garros' footsteps and delay the start of their event. As such, players who make the second week at the French Open may have to compromise their grasscourt ambitions this year.
While the Libema Open and Mercedes Cup will coincide with the French Open (barring any further date changes), the Queen's Club Championships and Halle Open are scheduled to begin just a day after Roland Garros 2021 ends.
Roger Federer, meanwhile, was previously expected to get some match practice on clay ahead of Wimbledon, the Olympics and the US Open. But with the postponement of the French Open, it remains to be seen if the 39-year-old will still be keen to participate in the claycourt Slam.