A hotel shows the French Open is another game bubble which is not


PARIS – The lobby in the Pullman Paris Tour Eiffel was nearly empty when American Coco Gough collided with his parents on the front door on Sunday after his first-round victory at the French Open. It was approaching 10 pm, when hotel restaurants, like those across the city, needed to be closed in compliance with restrictions imposed due to a nationwide increase in coronovirus cases.

Situated at the base of the Eiffel Tower, near the Seine, the hotel has become for this part of the Grand Slam tournament the organizers call their bubble, a term casually embraced throughout the game for the overly difficult goal of controlling control. has been applied. Stop the spread of the virus. Yet during the recent United States Open in New York, the tennis biosphere in Paris is also welcoming to outsiders – those who were not to be tested for viruses when they arrived and who were required to test any of the tournament’s protocols or There will be no need to follow during their stay.

At Pullman, nearly half of the 430 rooms, with nightly rates starting at $ 335, have been made available to guests such as the captain of American Airlines, who flew the Boeing 777 on Monday to Dallas before piloting it back to Dallas and The space was shared. Over the weekend, guests outside included this reporter, who spent one night investigating how the protocol worked to protect players.

What I received was a mixed bag. Security guards patrolled the lobby to keep players away from traffic, and separate dining areas were clearly defined and defended. As soon as I entered the tight lift, which I shared with the players and rode and rode from my assigned room. It was located on the same floor as the Players’ Lounge, where I was departing after passing time with some stragglers.

For those who oversee tennis, golf and other college and professional sports institutions, protective schemes designed to satisfy local health officials often look very different when put into practice.

“It’s not a bubble,” said American Sam Quarry, who called a more accurate term “a controlled environment.”

He said that to create the perfect impermeable pod, a big major would be needed for home players, support staff, tournament officials and hotel staff – everyone likely to come into contact with his office for the next two weeks in Roland Garros.

“So it’s really impossible, I think, to create a true, 100 percent bubble where no one can get in and out,” Querrey said on Tuesday after his first-round defeat to André Rublev.

This is certainly the case here, where the arrival of players, whose presence in the virus’s hot spot is dedicated to passing multiple virus tests with potentially infected members of the public, gives new meaning to the mixer on Saturday night.

Sunday at Pullman may have been serene, but Britain’s top-ranked player Dan Evans was saddened by what he saw the day before in one of the city’s busiest areas.

“There were too many people in our hotel,” he said after a five-set loss to Kei Nishikori in the opening round. “For me, this is not what I personally want to see in this situation. If we are not allowed to leave, we should not see the public in the hotel.”

Inside this tennis bubble, the world at large, the virus is encouraging not only physical distance between people. It is also opening a philosophical divide. American John Isner stated that he had been demanded by fans outside the hotel to take a selfie with him and was happy to oblige.

“Our masks are on, it’s completely safe,” Isner said, “normal behavior, in my opinion, is much needed.”

Instead of consensus, leaders in tennis have conflicting agendas. Given that the French Open is the main source of its funding, the French Tennis Federation was desperate to organize the event, to collect broadcast rights revenue and to revive the sale of some tickets.

The federation interacted with Pullman as well as another nearby hotel, house players and their support staff. But it did not contest the cost of burning all rooms to assure a Tupperware-tight perimeter.

Noting that Pullman has struggled to fill more than 60 rooms a night on average since its June reopening, management had no choice, a hotel spokesman explained, but taking reservations during the French Open To continue. To accommodate everyone, additional measures, such as separate dining areas, have been established to separate players from others such as cotton and wool in the wash.

There is no such division for hotel staff, with a person involved in a breakfast shift at a public restaurant serving guests outside the tennis bubble a day after the players waited on Rafael Nadal in a floor below in a separate dining area. having had. Nadal, the defending men’s champion, looms large in the lobby, where a huge video screen loop highlights from last year’s men’s and women’s finals.

A scene as Nadal walks into the lobby on a screen in a tight Philippe-Chierrier corridor surrounded by fans with the kids squeezed on either side of him is to be hit by the reality of how far from this year’s tournament Gone is normal.

“It is not easy to get trapped in a bubble,” said Wasek Pospisil of Canada, adding: “You can’t even get fresh air. But now that’s what it is.”

If Gauff had a famine on Sunday night after the start of the first round of Jonah Conta, she could catch a late-night snack in the players’ only dining area, but she could not reach any of the popular spots that Craps Was served. And the croissants who feed him the love of Paris, because it would have meant getting along with those outside the bubble.

The ban makes sense on paper, but the moment players interact with guests who have not been tested – or in my case, who were tested, but were free to roam around in potential hot spots across the city – The integrity of the environment is compromised.

Similar situations arise in the media setup of the tournament, as players sit for interviews on a tight set with broadcasters, who have paid millions to broadcast the tournament, but still do not make socially distance. And neither wears masks while talking.

Players are not blind. They may see gaps in the virus defenses of the French Federation. Former Women’s World No.1 Victoria Azarenka, a two-time major winner, said, “I am a little nervous about the health situation.”

Azarenka stayed in a private house during the US Open and paid for security to monitor her movements to ensure that she honored quarantine when she was not practicing or playing. So does Serena Williams, another former world number 1, whose plans to escape the hotel scene in Paris live in an apartment that she owns in the city were thwarted by French authorities. Other players staying in Paris were also forced to stay in one of the hotels to play.

Like Britain’s Evans, Williams failed to see the logic in not allowing players to get out of the bubble, while those who had not been tested for the virus were essentially being let in.

He may not have agreed with the mandate, but the option was even less attractive: he has won three times to pass a major when he is one year from the age of 40 and Margaret Court’s 24 Grand Slam singles championship records Is a title.

“I think it’s a must,” said Williams, who said she has created her “personal bubble” and is doing everything she can think of to make it impenetrable.

“It definitely beats staying home,” she said.

Williams’ older sister Venus, 40, has autoimmune disease Sjogren’s syndrome, which puts her at high risk for severe coronovirus disease. When asked about his level of comfort in playing here, Williams, who lost in the first round, said, “I think at this point I’ve accepted that anyone can get it at any time, so I’m I try my best. “

“I am a little more accepting that this can happen, and these are the risks you take when you leave home,” he said.

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