Wish you were here? Reigning French Open champion Ash Barty pictured beer-in-hand watching Aussie Rules as Roland Garros Slam stumbles into second week amid terrible weather and surge in Covid-19 cases
- Barty was caught on camera enjoying a beer at the game in native Queensland
- She decided against defending her French Open title at Roland Garros
- Rearranged Slam is turning into a miserable experience for those who did go
- Rain, wind and generally dreadful conditions have ruined the tournament
- Players are criticising conditions amid a city-wide surge in Covid-19 cases
- There has also been a host of bad-tempered matches and on court rows
TV cameras captured French Open champion Ash Barty back in her native Queensland, drinking beer in the stands at the Gabba while watching Aussie Rules football.
Wish you were here? It did not look like she was missing Roland Garros much, but then quite a few of those she has left to contest the title do not seem to have enjoyed the Paris experience.
A surfeit of men’s and women’s seeds have already lost, and there appears to have been an abnormal amount of broken rackets, spats and complaints.
Reigning French Open champion Ashleigh Barty was caught on camera beer-in-hand and celebrating as she watched the Brisbane Lions play Richmond in an Aussie Rules match
Barty is the reigning champion at Roland Garros but decided against defending her title
Playing a dislocated second Grand Slam within a month amid Covid restrictions and slow, inhospitable conditions has caused an undue amount of angst for players as the tournament heads into its middle weekend.
A saving grace is that the number of positive cases among players has been relatively small, but the event faces more headwinds as it goes into its middle weekend.
Rain is forecast for all next week, and over the next three days the temperatures are not predicted to get above 60 fahrenheit.
French government officials are also meeting this to discuss whether the city should be imminently moved to ‘alerte maximale’, which would mean the closure of all bars and restaurants in the city, further dampening the wider atmosphere.
This year’s French Open has been thoroughly miserable with bad weather affecting schedules
The number of Covid-19 cases in Paris is also rising, causing concern for the participants
Amid this distinct possibility and with numbers of Parisian cases increasing, Roland Garros – unlike the US Open – will not be seeing a reduction in the players it is catering for next week.
This is because, in its original ambition to stage as normal a Grand Slam as possible, the French agreed to stage a full junior event in its second week as is customary at a Major.
That means the arrival 64 boys and 64 girls, plus a few more for the doubles events. Already the senior doubles draw is double the size of that in New York.
Numerous players have drawn unfavourable comparisons with the set-up for the players at the US Open.
There they housed them at large hotels out on Long Island and laid on downtime amusements such as an outdoor cinema and golfing area. In Paris they are penned in city centre hotels with no such distractions.
Two of the maximum 1,000 daily spectators at Roland Garros struggle with their umbrella
Ball kids run out onto court wearing face masks amid a surge in Covid-19 cases in Paris
Canadian Vasek Pospisil, an influential figure who has helped set up the new men’s player association, described it as ‘much worse’ than New York.
‘At least for the players, the hotel we’re staying at, it’s tough,’ Pospisil said.
‘We don’t have anything. The US Open, there was a much bigger effort I felt from the organisation to make the time in the bubble a little bit more comfortable.
‘I think almost every player I’ve spoken to was sharing the same opinion. Yeah, it’s not easy to be stuck in the bubble. You don’t want to be on-site all day because it’s also a stressful environment.’
Vasek Pospisil smashed his racket into the clay during his match with Matteo Berrettini
Just a handful of spectators watch the game between Pospisil and Berrettini this week
With nine days to go it is likely the ability to best focus on the job in hand will be a determining factor in who stays until the business end of the tournament.
As there will likely be rain delays – like those seen on Friday – it will be an advantage for the bigger name players more likely to play under the roof of the Philippe Chatrier stadium.
We may well see more of the incidents already witnessed such as the bad-tempered match between Sara Errani and Kiki Bertens, Dan Evans’s doubles confrontation at the net, Victoria Azarenka’s refusal to play and various obliterated rackets.
There was even women’s star Elina Svitolina tearing up in a press conference over how she had lost a toy dog she used to take around tour with her – among the more unusual markers of this stressful French Open.
Kiki Bertens left the court in a wheelchair after prevailing against Sara Errani at French Open
Errani openly mocked her opponents’ injury during the fiery second-round contest
Elina Svitolina was left downbeat after losing a toy dog she often takes around on tour