Simon Reed

French should stay at Roland Garros

Simon Reed

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It has been revealed that the French tennis federation is considering moving the French Open away from Roland Garros if its extension project does not get the green light from the Paris City Council within the next year.

I take the issue seriously because it seems the council are getting cold feet but, and this might be a case of me wearing rose-tinted glasses here, I still see it fundamentally as just a case of brinkmanship at this point.

The FFT are saying: if you don't give us what we want then we will go somewhere else, but I think the tournament would lose a lot if they were forced to move and I think the FFT know that.

The French have been very careful to brand themselves as 'Roland Garros' over the last 10 years. It used to always be called the French Open but the feeling that the name of the tournament is changing to Roland Garros has been growing steadily year-on-year.

So, without pouring cold water on their threats, that's another reason why they would be loathe to leave

There is a slight problem because where they want to build this extra court is in a very salubrious area. People there are well connected and would be quite a powerful force to dislodge, but ultimately will money talk? I sense that it will and that the FFT will get their way in the end.

I think Roland Garros as a venue is great and all of us at Eurosport would hate for it to leave because we all love going there. It has its own sense of style and identity and it would be a shame if it had to move.

However, having said all that, while it would be a great pity if it left, I don't think it is absolutely critical that the tournament stays at Roland Garros. 

If it did move, it would take time for the tournament to establish itself back to its previous level, but I think the French are very good with ideas and I'm sure that they would build a magnificent structure.

It would take a long time before people got used to it but if it was still the French Open and the prize money was the same, then I think people would still embrace it. 

One thing I can't see happening is a situation where France would lose its Grand Slam to one of the wealthy Asian markets.  

I think the Slam that has been under the greatest threat in recent years has been the Australian Open, but they have been very careful to position themselves as the Slam for the Asia-Pacific region.

China made a very strong play for that event but I think Australia have fully wrested it back by taking Asian input into their tournament.

The notion of moving a Grand Slam away from its home country is dangerous idea - a really dangerous idea.

The WTA went for the dollar by sending their Tour Championship to Doha and they got what they needed at a very important time. That means it was probably a shrewd move but I have to say that I think going over there lessened that tournament.

I don't think a Grand Slam can take that sort of risk. For me, you can't build a Grand Slam in the Middle East - there just isn't the spectator interest. I think anywhere in the Middle East is a no-no.

It could work in the Far East but even the tournaments over there recently haven't been brimful with spectators and that would be the danger even if they added a fifth Slam to the calendar specifically for that market. 

In golf they have been keen to keep it to just four Slams and I see tennis as being similar in that respect. I know in Miami they have been very keen to project themselves as the unofficial 'fifth Slam' - but I'm afraid that doesn't quite work.

You can never say never, it could happen, but it would take a long time and a leap of faith from everyone to deliver a fifth Slam and the only place where I could see it happening is China.

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