Tuesday February 07, 2023

No need for ‘Quiet Please’ at French Open as stands half empty

June 02, 2018

PARIS: The sun had broken through the clouds, the coin had been flipped and the players were ready to begin their third round matches at Roland Garros just after 11 o’clock on Friday morning.

The only question was, where were the crowds?

It’s been an issue at the French Open for years — half empty stadiums early in the day, particularly for women’s matches, despite the event supposedly being all but sold out — yet Friday looked to be an especially lacklustre start.

On Philippe Chatrier, the equivalent of Wimbledon’s Centre Court, the lower rung of the 15,000-seater stadium — where many sponsors have hospitality seating — was all but empty as second seed Alexander Zverev and 24th seed Damir Dzumhur took to the court for what turned into an electrifying five-setter.

The situation was even worse on Suzanne Lenglen, the No. 2 court, where American 13th seed Madison Keys took on Japan’s exciting talent Naomi Osaka, winning after a tight second-set tie break.

The French Tennis Federation has been trying to tackle the problem in various ways for years, aware that it doesn’t feel great for the players or look very good on television when the stands have only a few hundred spectators in them, at least at the start of the day.

Last year, organisers split the tickets on men’s semi-finals day so that one would have to buy a ticket either for the first semi or the second, rather than have a whole-day pass.

The aim was to prevent the mass exodus of spectators that usually happens around lunchtime.This year, organisers took further steps, allowing sponsors to invite more than one guest per seat in the stadium.

Asked if they had any new ideas for how to fill up the stadiums early in the day, the French Tennis Federation said they would get back.Online, tennis fans expressed frustration that the players weren’t getting better crowds.“Let the children come,” said one tennis fan on Twitter.