French Open reschedule shocks tennis world

The French Open is on a collision course with Tennis Australia's Laver Cup after moving the start dates of the claycourt major from May to September.

RAFAEL NADAL of Spain celebrates during the mens singles final against Dominic Thiem of Austria during the 2018 French Open at Roland Garros in Paris, France.
RAFAEL NADAL of Spain celebrates during the mens singles final against Dominic Thiem of Austria during the 2018 French Open at Roland Garros in Paris, France. Picture: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

French Open officials have thrown the international tennis calendar into further chaos with the controversial decision to shift the start of the claycourt grand slam from May to September, just a week after the US Open finals.

The decision - believed to have been made after little consultation with the men's and women's governing bodies - has drawn widespread criticism and left the French Open on a collision course with Tennis Australia's Laver Cup.

With the global coronavirus crisis causing unseen certainty, the USTA said it was delaying a decision on US Open start dates while making it clear it wasn't happy with Roland Garros organisers.

"The USTA is continuing to plan for the 2020 US Open and is not at this time implementing any changes to the schedule," it said in a statement.

"These are unprecedented times, though, and we are assessing all of our options, including the possibility of moving the tournament to a later date.

"At a time when the world is coming together, we recognise that such a decision should not be made unilaterally, and therefore the USTA would only do so in full consultation with the other Grand Slam tournaments, the WTA and ATP, the ITF and our partners, including the Laver Cup."

French Open tournament director Guy Forget reportedly called 12-times champion Rafael Nadal before the announcement, but it was not immediately known if Australia's women's titleholder and world No.1 Ashleigh Barty was notified.

"For us, it was unthinkable (to cancel). The only thing we had in mind was the interest of the tournament and of the players," French tennis federation president Bernard Giudicelli said.

The French Open was to have been held from May 24-June 7 but had been in major doubt after the men's ATP Tour last week announced a six-week suspension due to the pandemic while the WTA, which runs women's tennis, postponed all events until May 2.

Wimbledon officials remain hopeful of starting The Championships on June 29, but are closely monitoring the coronavirus pandemic.

The All England Club said it would close the museum in its grounds, which is open all year, and other facilities following the British government's recommendation to avoid unnecessary gatherings.

"While we continue to plan for The Championships at this time, it remains a continuously evolving situation and we will act responsibly, in the best interests of wider society," All England Club chief executive Richard Lewis said in a statement.

Tennis Australia, which created the Laver Cup with Roger Federer's management group and others, was blindsided by the French Open move to a September 20 start date.

That is five days before the scheduled opening to this year's Laver Cup in the United States.

"This announcement came as a surprise to us and our partners - Tennis Australia, the USTA and the ATP," a Laver Cup statement issued on Wednesday said.

"It raises many questions and we are assessing the situation.

"These dates overlap with the dates of Laver Cup 2020, already sold out, and scheduled for September 25-27, 2020 at TD Garden in Boston.

"At this time, we want our fans, sponsors, broadcasters, staff, volunteers, players and the great city of Boston to know that we intend to hold Laver Cup 2020 as currently scheduled."

Federer, a French Open semi-finalist last year in his only appearance at the Paris slam since 2015, and Australian ace Nick Kyrgios, an unabashed supporter of the Laver Cup, are among the sport's big guns likely to be weighing up their options.


AAP