NEW YORK (Reuters) – The French Open will allow a maximum of 11,500 spectators per day to adhere to strict health protocols and curb the spread of COVID-19 when the Grand Slam begins later this month, the French Tennis Federation (FFT) said on Monday.
The French Open, traditionally held in May-June, was postponed earlier this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and will now be held at Roland Garros from Sept. 27-Oct. 11.
France has recorded nearly 31,000 deaths, according to a Reuters tally.
The FFT said a maximum of 5,000 spectators per day would be allowed to watch matches at both the Philippe-Chatrier and Suzanne-Lenglen showcourts while only 1,500 fans would be allowed at the smaller Simonne-Mathieu court.
Seating arrangements would have a gap of one seat on each row and no more than four people can sit side-by-side while wearing masks would be mandatory for anyone over the age of 11.
The qualifying rounds, which begin on Sept. 21, will be held behind closed doors.
The FFT had said in July it planned to allow up to 60% of the usual number of fans. A record 520,000 spectators attended last year’s event, according to organisers.
Rafa Nadal and Ash Barty, who both skipped the U.S. Open in New York due to COVID-19 concerns, are expected to defend their titles at Roland Garros.
Tournament officials said that all players must stay in one of two designated hotels “in order to respect the health and safety measures.”
Serena Williams, who opted to stay in private housing as she hunts for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title at the U.S. Open, said players should have the option to stay elsewhere if fans are attending matches.
“I’m super conservative because I do have some serious health issues, so I try to stay away from public places, because I have been in a really bad position in the hospital a few times,” Williams, who suffered blood clots and life-threatening pulmonary embolisms while giving birth to her daughter Olympia in 2017, told reporters at Flushing Meadows after reaching the quarter-finals.
“So I don’t want to end up in that position again,” she added. “For me, I try to keep a 12-foot distance instead of six.”
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru and Amy Tennery in New York, editing by Pritha Sarkar)