By Julien Pretot
PARIS (Reuters) – The four main courts at the French Open will be lit from next year, meaning the top matches will not be interrupted by bad light, organisers said on Sunday.
Court Philippe Chatrier’s retractable roof will also be in operation from 2020 and French tennis federation president Bernard Giudicelli confirmed that it would be used if necessary and that night sessions would start in 2021.
Matches at Roland Garros usually finish at 2130 local time at the latest, when play is no longer possible due to the fading light.
“The lighting will be on four main courts: Lenglen, Chatrier, Mathieu, and Court No. 4. And for the other ones it’s 2021,” tournament director Guy Forget told a news conference.
Giudicelli added: “It’s the last year where matches will end because of night time.”
Court One, known as ‘the Bullring’, will be destroyed as planned after this year’s tournament and will be replaced by a large lawn to facilitate spectators’ movements.
Organisers also faced questions about empty stands with the officials’ and corporate seats often left unoccupied around lunch time.
The stadium was not full, for example, when 11-times French Open champion Rafael Nadal and 20-times Grand Slam winner Roger Federer started their semi-final on Friday.
“Today, in particular with our partners, we are trying,
as of next year, to find new means to fill up these boxes that are empty sometimes,” said Forget.
“At some times, economically speaking, we cannot afford to refuse these partners and sometimes these people who pay for a more expensive ticket, who consume tennis in a different way as in the past and have difficulty in spending eight to nine hours sitting on the chair.
“That’s why we will try to do with our partners the sort of overbooking you have in hotels or in airline companies in order to have some of their clients in the first part, and then a second batch of people coming afterwards following lunch.”
Giudicelli explained that the tournament was economically dependent on hospitality tickets.
“If we only sold general tickets without any hospitality services, it would be a threat to the economy of the tournament
and the Federation,” he said.
“I’m not sure that we could give the same prize money
as we have today, and I’m certain that we could not make the investments we made.
“Between 2008 and 2021, we invested 500 million euros, in total, on its own assets without any public subsidies to modernise this stadium.”
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Toby Davis)