Fans left fuming as men’s final spills into Monday
PARIS, June 11 — Thousands of tennis fans were left hopping mad yesterday as the conclusion of the French Open final between six-times champion Rafa Nadal and world number one Novak Djokovic spilled over to a second day after rain halted play in the fourth set.
Showers on the final Sunday had been forecast at least 48 hours in advance, but despite that organisers chose to stick to their traditional 1500 local time (1300 GMT) start for the showpiece match.
Nadal was leading 6-4 6-3 2-6 1-2 when the match referee called the players off court at 1651 GMT. There had also been a 35-minute interruption in the second set.
The final had a lot riding on it for both players since Nadal was chasing a record seventh title while Djokovic was attempting to become the first man in 43 years to win four majors in a row.
It was no wonder that fans scrambled to get tickets which cost up to 169 euros, but were changing hands for up to 10 times the face value with ticket touts outside Roland Garros doing brisk business.
“This is very bad organisation, they should have started the match earlier because they knew the forecast,” Vladimir Bojovic, who deals with real estate investments and had specifically travelled to Paris from Belgrade to support Djokovic, told Reuters.
“This is just dreadful for tourists as we came for this day and now we have pay even more money to change our flight tickets and spend an extra night in the hotel.
“This tournament needs to get with the 21st century as Wimbledon has a roof and this place still does not.”
Listened to Nadal
Bojovic, who had travelled in a party of 10, was also annoyed that officials called off the players at 1851 local time when the rain was still not very heavy.
“They could have continued, but stopped because Nadal kept complaining about the conditions. Djokovic was playing better but they listened to Nadal.”
Organisers said tickets from yesterday will still be valid on the third Monday of the championships, but that was small consolation to some people.
Nadal fan Abraham Shiera and his partner, Alexsandra Nunez, who was backing Djokovic, were left more irritated as they had flown in from Venezuela for the final and will be unable to return for the finish due to business commitments.
“We both came for the tennis and are really frustrated by the match not finishing as we're flying back early in the morning,” Shiera, and oil and gas businessman, told Reuters.
Nunez, keeping dry under a transparent Roland Garros umbrella, added: “Everyone in Paris knew about the rain today so I can't understand why they did not start earlier.
“It's a real pity that we won't get to see the finish. However, I don't think they had any choice to call off the match when they did because it was difficult for players to continue in that rain.”
Organisers, who said the match would resume at 1100 GMT today, defended yesterday’s schedule before reiterating that a roof would be in place for 2017.
“Even though TV does not dictate, there are arrangements that are made weeks and months before the event regarding starting times and all that,” tournament director Gilbert Ysern told a news conference.
“You cannot change overnight and tell all broadcasters in the world 'Sorry, but you have to change everything ... because we are going to change tomorrow's schedule. It doesn't work like that. Out of respect to all the broadcasters we cannot ... change it at the last minute.”
Ysern also outlined that fans who are unable to come back today can re-sell their tickets through the official tournament website before adding: “A roof is ... on the way. But of course it's going to be in five years' time.
“We will have to keep our fingers crossed for the next five years and hope we are going to avoid the rain on the final days.”
The last time the French Open men's final was not completed on Sunday was in 1973, when bad weather did not allow for the showpiece match to be completed until Tuesday.
Like at the French Open, the US Open also does not have a roof over any of its courts and the last four men's finals have taken place on the third Monday.
The 2001 men's Wimbledon final between Goran Ivanisevic and Pat Rafter also extended the championships into a third week but the grasscourt championships now has a roof over Centre Court. — Reuters