…as rising COVID-19 cases forces reduction of number of fans
Recently crowned US Open champion Naomi Osaka has withdrawn from the French Open in another serious blow to organisers of the tournament in Paris.
Osaka, who claimed her third grand slam title in New York last week, is struggling with a hamstring injury and joins world No 1 Ash Barty in pulling out of competition at Roland Garros.
The 22-year-old wore tape on her left hamstring as she came from a set down to beat Victoria Azarenka in the final at Flushing Meadows at the weekend, and said the turnaround between tournaments was too tight for her to recover fully, reports The Guardian.
“Unfortunately, I won’t be able to play the French Open this year,” the world No 3 wrote on social media.
“My hamstring is still sore so I won’t have time to prepare for the clay – these two tournaments came too close to each other for me this time. I wish the organisers and players all the best.”
Reigning French Open champion Barty pulled out earlier this month, citing concerns over coronavirus and a lack of training time spent with her coach.
The French Open is scheduled to go ahead, starting on September 27, despite high numbers of Covid-19 cases reported in the country.
The pandemic had already forced the event to be delayed from its original slot in the tennis calendar in May and June.
Meanwhile, the number of fans allowed to attend each day of the French Open has been cut to 5,000 because of surging coronavirus figures in the country.
Last week, the French Tennis Federation (FFT) said it planned to allow 11,500, reports the BBC.
“The evolving hygiene situation in the Paris area has prompted the Paris police department to limit the number of spectators who may enter Roland Garros,” said the FFT on Thursday.
The Grand Slam is set to start on September 27 at Roland Garros in Paris.
France recorded 10,593 cases on Thursday – the highest daily number since the pandemic began.
“The FFT will therefore assume the responsibility of organising the tournament with a new layout,” said the organisers.
“It is important for the sporting, social and economic life of the country that a major event like Roland Garros can be put on while respecting health imperatives.”
The French Open usually begins at the end of May and finishes a fortnight later in early June but was rescheduled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Last week the FFT announced that a maximum of 5,000 fans would be allowed in ‘zones’ around Court Philippe Chatrier and Court Suzanne Lenglen – the two main show-courts – and a further 1,500 in another containing the smaller Court Simonne-Mathieu.
But French newspaper L’Equipe reported on Thursday the changing restrictions meant only Chatrier would now house fans.