- Roland-Garros launched its night sessions this year, like at the US Open or the Australian Open.
- A mixed experience due to health constraints, because these posters had to be held behind closed doors.
- For the last of the fortnight, Wednesday evening, 5,000 spectators will finally be able to fill the stands of the Philippe-Chatrier court, and give a taste of what these nocturnes could be. made in Paris.
They are supposed to bring the tournament into another dimension, that of noisy and electric evenings, which sometimes switch without warning into furious madness as long as the scenario of the match lends itself to it. But Roland-Garros will have to wait before knowing these atmospheres prized by the players, which made the fame of the US Open and the Australian Open. The night sessions, a big novelty of this edition, have weighed more heavily on the tournament than anything else so far. Without the organizers having much to do with it.
It will not have escaped anyone’s notice, the evening game schedule was exactly at the start of the government-imposed curfew. 9 p.m. was always better than 7 p.m., as it was until May 19. But it’s not as good as 11 p.m., the new schedule in effect from Wednesday. Result, except for the very last between Tsitsipas and Medvedev, no audience for the big poster of the day disputed on the Philippe-Chatrier court. It doesn’t help sell the product to gamers, and since – another novelty – you had to be an Amazon Prime Video subscriber to watch the game, the general public didn’t get more hooked on the concept.
Make do with it this time
Tuesday, the organization, no more than the American platform, did not wish to comment on the subject, reserving for a great assessment at the end of the tournament. The director Guy Forget had nevertheless taken the time, last week, to discuss for West France the emerging criticisms of these very pale evenings. “It is not the evening sessions that are to be called into question, it is the curfew that poses a problem,” he pointed out. When we signed this partnership with Amazon, we didn’t know that these matches would be played in an empty stadium. For the players, for the spectators, it is very unpleasant. Some players don’t want to play in front of empty stands, but this tournament has to move forward. “
To round things off, the former captain of the French Davis Cup team went to talk to the main headliners, in “sorry but for this year it’s like that, if everyone is doing their part. it will pass faster ”. Djokovic, Nadal, Federer, Zverev, Williams or Swiatek have all been there. Before Medvedev, who regretted Tuesday evening that “Roland-Garros [ait] favorite Amazon to the public ”, no one had publicly flinched, while politely making it clear that it had not been the best experience of their lives.
“Of course I prefer to play in the afternoon, I’m not going to say the opposite, commented Gasquet after having to deal with Nadal all alone in the middle of this immense Central court. But it is a special season. We know that the best players were going to play fairly quickly on these courts in the evening. It’s like that. The most talkative on the subject will have been RodGER, who took the time to present his point of view at 1:30 am on the night of Saturday to Sunday before returning to rest his knees at home.
“It’s true that it’s late to start a best-of-five-set game, but sometimes I finished later than tonight. It’s part of our sport, of our activity. Going to bed at 3 in the morning is not ideal, but if you are an athlete, a professional it is. It’s business, we have to move forward. “
“On clay, between day and night, there is a huge gap”
Forget couldn’t have said better. When he was not yet the boss of the tournament but commentator on Eurosport, in 2012, he had noticed at the US Open that the evenings attracted a different fauna in the stands. “Here people don’t just come to see tennis, they come to see a show and drink shots with friends,” he said. Amélie Mauresmo, in the comments of the nocturnes for Prime Video, confirms. “The goal of these evenings is to find an audience who works during the day and who wants to enjoy the atmosphere of Roland-Garros in the evening,” she explained at the start of the tournament. We feel, whether we are on the players side or the comments side, that it is a special atmosphere. “
In the case of the French Grand Slam, it will still take into account an element that can make Parisian evenings a little less sexy for the players than those in New York or Melbourne. Playing on clay at night is not at all the same as playing during the day. “It makes a big difference, Judge Federer. We cannot compare one and the other. On a hard surface, it’s pretty much the same. But on earth, between day and night, there is a huge gap. “
“It’s a little colder, the balls are heavier, and bounce a little less high,” Nishikori explains about the night conditions. It’s more difficult to get the right speed. “What cool some players (Nadal at random), in the long run? The organizers will see to use. In the meantime, they had to face a final blow, last week, with the refusal of the Ministry of Sports to grant them an exemption to welcome the public from Tuesday evening, while the preparation match of the Blues of football against Bulgaria took place in front of 5,000 people at the Stade de France.
Too bad for Medvedev and Tsitsipas. It is finally Djokovic, against Berrettini, who will have the honor of tasting the first thrills of what will begin to look like a real night session. It’s an understatement to say that everyone is eager to see what it can give, before adjusting the sights for next year. Guy Forget, as he confided on RMC, does not rule out the idea of strengthening this streak by scheduling two games, from 7 p.m. Or to keep only one, but with a start at 8 p.m. “All the hypotheses are under study”, assures the director. Except that of having to still do without the public.