Players burst ‘bubble’ of 2020 French Open


Sam Querrey and his wife, Abby, who welcomed their first child in February, may be the poster parents for young families trying to live normal lives during the coronovirus epidemic. Fully aware of the health hazards and committed to taking great precautions, Quares decided to travel to Paris as a family with his 7-month-old son, Ford, so that Sam could compete at the 2020 French Open .

“It’s not fun in the bubble. It’s Paris, but it’s not Paris,” Sam Querrey said Tuesday at Roland Garros, citing health and safety restrictions that denied food or sightseeing along the river is. “You’re either in the courts or in your small European hotel room with a ton of bags.”

Like almost all of his teammates, Querrey voiced his complaints with Ryder about the restrictions, which, first and foremost, he is thrilled to be able to play again. But the common sense of gratitude felt by most professionals and underlines their apparent desire to best address the challenges posed by the health crisis.

With no fans inside the bio-secure “bubble” created at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, the USTA (along with the Western and Southern Open) faced those challenges to host the USTA. The French Open, postponed from its customary late May beginning, adopted similar measures. But the approach in Paris has made some worrying, with some ten claiming that there is no real “bubble” at the French Open.

Comparisons between the two events and the protocols they adopted were unavoidable and not entirely appropriate for the French Open, where officials have avoided using the term “bubble” in favor of “safe zones”.

“To create a real bubble, at the US Open or here, a hotel with 10,000 rooms would be needed,” Querrey said. “You will need everyone who is on site to be in contact with anyone from the cleaning staff to the cooks and players. You will need MGM Grand. [an enormous hotel in Las Vegas] Or something like that, but either way, they did a good job here and in New York. ”

Others were not charitable, explicit criticism of reservations or French attitudes. Some have challenged how safe the “safe zones” are, and how comfortable the players have felt. Players have been subjected to recursive testing for COVID-19 at both majors, but this is where the similarities end.

Much concern among players has centered on tournament organizers’ emphasis on allowing fans, a number that had risen from the original 20,000 to an estimated 1,000 due to a local spike in Coronavirus.

“I think, as all players, [we] A bit nervous about the state of health… [and] In the event of these circumstances, “US Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka mentioned the tournament’s urge to allow fans during her pre-tournament press conference in Paris.

“In my opinion the US Open was a little better,” Misaki Doi of Japan said on Wednesday. “there were no [untested] Audience and even fewer people and more social distance. “

The USTA decided to allow players to stay in rented houses instead of two official player hotels, provided they follow the restrictions that apply to their teammates. They were also forced to appoint sanctioned security personnel to monitor compliance, so the cost became prohibitive for almost all players. The French ruled that all players – such as Serena Williams, who has a private residence in Paris, must stay at the official Players Hotel, the Pullman Paris Tour Eiffel.

“If there are fans, we should be able to live elsewhere,” Williams said after one of his matches at the fan-free US Open. “It’s interesting, because there is no private accommodation – but there are fans.”

Williams followed the rules, as did Novak Djokovic, the second leading private star during the US Open.

Fans in Paris are obliged to wear masks, but the lucky 1,000 have a field race as far as going. There are fears that if some or any of the fans have been erased the drama will be inferior. It is surprising how uplifting it is for players to see and hear – anyone, anyone – in the stands. Dozens, dozens and in some cases hundreds are scattered around the courts in Paris.

British star Dan Evans said after a five-set first-round loss to Kei Nishikori, “To be honest, it was actually a very good atmosphere on the court.” “I thought Japanese boys and girls had little pockets [junior players] From the tournament. It is the same with the Brits. I think some public audience was present there. So it was very good. ”

Unlike the US Open, Roland Garros has committed to offering a full palette of competitive draws including qualifying and juniors, although there will not be mixed doubles. This has made for some crowded conditions at two “safe zone” facilities, the mainstay (officially, Stade Roland Garros) and the nearby Jean-Boin Training Center. Players were asked to show at Roland Garros only on days when they had official matches, but this has proved problematic.

“It’s not impossible to come here if you want to fight a racket or do laundry,” Querrey said. “It would be impossible to enforce those rules, but then no one is around in Roland Garros. There are no coaches in the locker room. Everyone is acting responsibly.”

Although several players, including Spanish giants Fernando Verdasco and Demir Dajumur, were excluded from the tournament after testing positive for coronovirus, no player has tested positive so far in the main draw. But no one has denied that the French approach, with its lax rules, also carries an increased risk.

“Nothing really has changed here [from] Except for a normal tournament, there are fewer people in it, “Alexander Zverev said after his second-round win. We still have our players’ fields. We don’t have the entertainment that we did in New York. The hotel really Not a bubble. ”

Players have theoretically reserved the entire floor of the hotel as well as dining areas for their exclusive use with the general population of guests at the Pullman Paris Tour Eiffel. But many have shared the lift with many non-sporting guests. Waiter shuttle between player and all access dining room. Zverev said he is staying next door to “regular” guests, who are “living there every single day with souvenirs that they come from, you know, from the Eiffel Tower and stuff like that.”

Zverev said, “You can’t compare bubbles. New York, they wanted to impress us players. They wanted to do something amazing, which I honestly think they have. [done]. “

Zverev went to New York hotels to describe the variety and choices of food and entertainment where he was forced not to stay at the National Tennis Center. These include, among other things, arcade games, mini-golf, basketball hoops, massive television viewing screens, and different food trucks every day.

“It felt like a huge camping trip with all the tennis players,” Zverev said. “There was stuff on site [also] Amazing.”

As a seeded player at the US Open, Zverev was also given the use of a major sponsor suit overlooking the court at Arthur Ash Stadium. With no fans and a low number of events, players had an entire, amenity-loaded, 46.5-acre site (compared to 21 acres in Roland Garros).

Vasek Pospisil is the co-president (top-ranked Djokovic) of the Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA), an emerging freshman organization. On Sunday at Roland Garros, he expressed his frustration with players’ lack of facilities as well as restrictions on activity, indicating that this was the kind of issue that could eventually come under the purview of PTPA.

“It’s not easy because you can’t even get fresh air [at the site or the hotel], “Said Pospisil. He added almost all the players he spoke to share opinions that the French Open organizers did not do enough” to make the time in the bubble a little more comfortable “.

The circumstances have affected the players differently. David Goffin of number 11 said after losing his first round match to Janik Sinar on Sunday: “The most difficult for me [during the pandemic] To be mentally fresh on the court and to deliver everything to the court is to save energy. So I think that was the hardest part today. It’s just that I was a little empty, there is no energy today. ”

Others, such as Querrey’s compatriot and friend John Isner, do not feel a comparable measure of stress, and feel safe despite the many holes in the bubble. Isner, who lost to American upstar Sebastian Korda in the second round, is one of the professionals who posed with fans in front of the player’s hotel.

Isner said, “The players are safe here. They were also safe in New York. It’s all good.” “I think it’s very important that if someone gets too close to you we don’t get too frustrated. We keep our distance. Our masks are on. It’s completely safe.”

Safe, maybe, but not as fun as before. Simona Halep celebrated her 29th birthday on the day she won her first round at Roland Garros. Halep, who won his first medal in Paris, said it was a “special day”.

For any planned celebration, it was stopped.

“I have to stay in the room,” he said. “Then I’ll have a water bottle.”

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