The 2021 edition of Roland Garros will reportedly be scheduling a night match on its main court every day, in a bid to attract more viewers. However, the prime-time slot will be reserved for the top men's singles players like Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, while completely ignoring female stars like Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams.
According to recent reports, this year's French Open will have a night session on Court Philipp-Chatrier, starting at 9 pm local time. The match scheduled for this session will also be publicized as the "Match of the Day".
While fans have welcomed the prospect of night matches, the move to exclude women from the slot has been branded as sexist by some.
Male players getting preferential treatment over female players is a serious complaint among many in the tennis community. That is particularly so right now, given how well the women fared in night matches when the floodlights were introduced at last year's French Open.
It is pertinent to note that the night session plan of the Roland Garros organizers is an oddity when compared with the other Grand Slams.
The top men's and women's singles players get equal representation when it comes to occupying the evening slots at the Australian Open and the US Open. The likes of Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova have even monopolized the night matches at the Majors in the past, bringing in the money with their stellar games and personalities.
The French Open never had the chance to organize night matches earlier, as there was no roof or floodlights on the site owing to traditions and community rules dating back to the 1900s. But a few years ago the organizers were finally able to get permission for lights, in a bid to address the complaints about delayed day matches.
The redevelopment of the main courts commenced after the 2018 edition of the tournament, and a retractable roof was constructed over Court Philippe-Chatrier. The installment of floodlights followed in 2020, allowing the tournament to facilitate night session matches for the first time in its long history.
Will Serena Williams get to play under the lights at Court Phillip-Chatrier in 2021?
Serena Williams could've possibly played under the Parisian floodlights for the first time in her career at last year's Roland Garros. But it was not meant to be, as the 23-time Major winner withdrew from the event due to injury after playing just one match.
If the organizers decide to go ahead with the reservation of night matches for the men, Serena Williams - and the other top female stars - will continue to be deprived of their chance. Given the star power that players like Williams, Naomi Osaka, Bianca Andreescu and Garbine Muguruza bring, many believe it would be a shame if they were not allowed to shine under the lights of Paris.