Roland Garros’ Friday Scheduling Is An Embarrassment

When rain washed out all of Wednesday’s play at Roland Garros, the schedule became very messy. Instead of Thursday being women’s semi-finals day, fans were left with two men’s and two women’s quarter-finals. As a result, instead of Friday being reserved for two men’s semi-finals, it will now include both women’s last four matches with them still playing catch up. With these additional matches added to the schedule you would think Roland Garros would have made an effort to create some sort of fairness for the remaining eight players, but what they’ve done is to many unacceptable and embarrassing.

The women’s semi-finals, on paper at least, are perhaps the weakest we’ve had at a Grand Slam for a very long time. They do feature world number eight Ashleigh Barty and the seeded Brit Johanna Konta, but the the upcoming 19 year old Marketa Vondrousova and 17 year old Amanda Anisimova not be well known to most tennis fans. Regardless of this all four women are in the semi-finals of a Grand Slam and deserve to have the spotlight on them, therefore playing on Philippe Chatrier, as originally scheduled.

In circumstances like this you can see why adjustments have to be made to not have both women’s matches on the main court. After all the winners have to return to court the very next day, while Anisimova and Barty have also played today. Given the threat of rain it also makes sense to play both at the same time to try and not give one finalist a huge advantage over the other. In which case the logic is simple, start one semi-final on Philippe Chatrier and the other on Suzanne Lenglen at the same time. Instead what the Roland Garros organisers have done is quite unbelievable in starting both at the same time but on Suzanne Lenglen and Simone-Mathieu, the second and third stadium courts at Roland Garros.

Honestly, I’m ashamed to be a fan of this sport after seeing this. Like I’ve said, it’s easy to understand exceptions need to be made given they’re behind in the schedule, but neither of the women’s semi-finals on Philippe Chatrier with one being on the third main court just isn’t right. It also opens the door for Czech Vondrousova, who has beaten three seeded players thus far and hasn’t dropped a set, to make a Grand Slam final without ever playing on the main court. Words cannot summarise what an even bigger disgrace that would be if it happens, there’s nothing the organisers can say or do to justify it.

Things get no better when you look at how they’ve scheduled the men’s matches. With all four top seeds making the semi-finals we may be in for a blockbusters as Roger Federer plays Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic takes on Dominic Thiem, but it still doesn’t make sense. While the women’s semi-finals start at 11am local time, Federer vs Nadal starts almost two hours later. Why wasn’t one one of the women’s semi-finals just scheduled before that, the likelihood is that the first of the men’s semi-finals still starts on time or at worst not long after. That way although not perfect at least one women’s match would be on the main court and the other on the second at the same time, similar to what was done in 2016.

What continues to bug me is how Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem are also treated in all of this. Having had to play their quarter-finals today, they have to play each other tomorrow. Now logically given the threat of rain, even though the final is on Sunday, it makes sense to play the match at the same time as Federer vs Nadal, that way the chances of one finalist having to play three or even four days in a row is heavily reduced.

Instead the organisers have for one reason or another opted to put the world number one’s semi-final right after the first of the men’s, also on Philippe Chatrier. I’m sure both the Serbian and Austrian will love being on the most prestigious clay-court in the world again, but in circumstances like this being ready, fit and not tired for the final is their main concern, the last thing either needs is for rain to disrupt their match while the winner of the other match is sitting cozy.

I understand that tickets to Philippe Chatrier were solid in two sessions meaning a partial refund would have to be given if a men’s match were moved, but that reason isn’t good enough. Scheduling is unexpected and changes all the time but what needs to be kept at the forefront is the players. Only today ticket holders for Philippe Chatrier expected to see two women’s matches, instead they got one women’s and one men’s. The nature of tennis comes down to unpredictable scheduling for the most part. 

This is hands down some of the worst and most disrespectful scheduling I’ve ever seen in any event, let alone a Grand Slam. Not only have they already made the chances of the winner of Djokovic vs Thiem being at a further disadvantage even higher, they’ve more importantly completely pushed aside the women’s draw by not treating it like one of the main events. Understandably, WTA CEO Steve Simon was gravely disappointed.

All they had to do was have one women’s semi-final to start play on Philippe Chatrier with a men’s semi-final after it and with the same schedule on Suzanne Lenglen. It’s not rocket science and come as close to creating a level playing field as possible. Even taking into account the ticketing issue that has made it harder for a change of schedule, even something simple like a ticket to the first session on Philippe Chatrier giving access to a women’s semi-final and a men’s semi-final would be great. Even though Djokovic and Thiem would still be at a disadvantage playing in another session afterwards at least one women’s semi-final would be on the main court with the other being on the second. Still a lot better than it currently is.

I really hope the remaining players involved and others let their thoughts be known to the organisers because as it stands it’s embarrassing for the sport.

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