Guy Forget, the tournament director at Roland Garros, recently weighed in on the issue of scheduling men's and women's matches in prime-time slots. Speaking to L'Equipe, Forget opined that fans would rather watch someone like Rafael Nadal winning in straight sets than a top WTA player winning in similar fashion, due to the difference in match duration.
The French Tennis Federation attracted controversy earlier on Thursday when an RMC report alleged that the organizers had reserved all night session matches for the men. Many fans claimed that leaving top WTA players like Serena Williams, Ashleigh Barty and Naomi Osaka out of the prime-time slot amounted to sexism.
The report was later denied by the FFT, who clarified that the night session could feature either a men's match or a women's match. The statement also claimed that at Roland Garros, "men and women enjoy an equal footing".
But now the Roland Garros tournament director has given a more ambiguous take on the issue. Guy Forget suggested during his interview that the top men's matches in the early rounds are more sought-after by fans as they typically last longer than the women's matches.
"The first rounds for the seeds are often one-sided matches," Forget said. "We will rather favor men's matches; even if Rafael Nadal wins 6–1, 6–2, 6–3, he will play for 1 hour 45 minutes or 2 hours. If it's 6–1, 6–1 in women, it can last 40 minutes."
If at some point there is a top women's match, it could be the game of the day: Guy Forget
While 13-time champion Rafael Nadal has indeed been the cynosure of all eyes in Paris over the last decade, French fans have also been treated to some spellbinding stories in the women's draw. Those include Maria Sharapova winning the French Open against all odds in 2014, as well as Serena Williams earning her triple career Grand Slam in 2015.
Simona Halep winning her maiden Grand Slam in 2018 was another such highlight, which pushed the Romanian to the top level of stardom.
Guy Forget acknowledged the appeal of women's tennis by claiming that the organizers were not deliberately ignoring women's tennis when it came to scheduling the evening matches. Forget added that the tournament would try to offer a vast range of top matches, both men's and women's, in the prime-time slot.
"We did not forbid ourselves to play women's matches," Forget said. "We did not say to ourselves either that we will only play men's matches. If at some point there is a women's game that is a great showdown, it could be the game of the day, the one people want to see first. We will want to put this match in the evening session."
Forget also insisted that the fans should trust the organizers to give them their money's worth when they visit the tournament.
"We will make sure to put on the game each time that is really expected so that people have a great time at Roland Garros," Forget said.