PARIS (Reuters) – The solar had damaged by way of the clouds, the coin had been flipped and the gamers have been prepared to start their third spherical matches at Roland Garros simply after 11 o’clock on Friday morning. The one query was, the place have been the crowds?
It’s been a difficulty at the French Open for years — half empty stadiums early within the day, significantly for girls’s matches, regardless of the occasion supposedly being all however bought out — but Friday an particularly lackluster begin.
On Philippe Chatrier, the equal of Wimbledon’s Heart Courtroom, the decrease rung of the 15,000-seater stadium — the place many sponsors have hospitality seating — was all however empty as second seed Alexander Zverev and 24th seed Damir Dzumhur took to the courtroom for what changed into an electrifying five-setter.
The scenario was even worse on Suzanne Lenglen, the No. 2 courtroom, the place American 13th seed Madison Keys took on Japan’s thrilling expertise Naomi Osaka, successful after a decent second-set tie break.
“It’s abysmal,” stated Penny Lincoln, a British girl visiting the French Open for the primary time.
“When they started this morning on Suzanne Lenglen, it was almost completely empty. It’s really a shame. Whoever was supposed to be there missed a good game.”
Her buddy Liz Warwick identified that the issue gave the impression to be most critical within the decrease tier of the 10,000-seater area. That’s the place sponsors and large corporates usually block-reserve costly seats to entertain purchasers.
“It’s not like this at Wimbledon,” stated Warwick. “At the end of the day, I’d feel really irritated if I’d got a general access ticket but couldn’t get to see the big matches even though I could see on the screens that the stadium was nearly empty.”
The French Tennis Federation has been making an attempt to deal with the issue in numerous methods for years, conscious that it doesn’t really feel nice for the gamers or look excellent on tv when the stands have just a few hundred spectators in them, at least at the beginning of the day.
Final yr, organizers cut up the tickets on males’s semi-finals day in order that one must purchase a ticket both for the primary semi or the second, quite than have a whole-day cross.
The goal was to forestall the mass exodus of spectators that often occurs round lunchtime.
Whereas le dejeuner is an establishment in Paris, it tends to run from 1230 till round three p.m. At Roland Garros, it’s usually a connoisseur meal accompanied by champagne. Company purchasers discover themselves drawn to the generously laid desk at Le President’s Membership quite than the exchanges on courtroom.
This yr, organizers took additional steps, permitting sponsors to ask multiple visitor per seat within the stadium, the thought being that whereas one visitor could be munching on terrine with a glass of sauvignon blanc, one other may very well be watching a match.
However it doesn’t appear to have had the specified impact, at least not thus far.
The oddity is that numbers for the French Open carry on climbing. Final yr, there have been a file 470,000 guests over 15 days, nearly on a par with Wimbledon, the place there have been 473,000 unfold over 13 days.
On Thursday, 34,400 spectators entered the Roland Garros grounds, within the leafy southwest of Paris, a wholesome quantity that means one other file turnout this yr if sustained.
However lots of them maintain tickets for the skin courts, the place seats may be taken on a ‘first come, first served’ foundation.
For the present courts, there’s no entry with out the proper, higher-priced ticket. On Friday, last-minute seats have been obtainable on Philippe Chatrier for 145 euros a chunk, however Suzanne Lenglen and the third-biggest courtroom, which seats three,800, have been apparently bought out.
Requested if that they had any new concepts for easy methods to refill the stadiums early within the day, the French Tennis Federation stated they’d get again. On-line, tennis followers expressed frustration that the gamers weren’t getting higher crowds.
“Let the children come,” stated one tennis fan on Twitter.
Writing by Luke Baker; Modifying by Raissa Kasolowsky