French Open winner Rafael Nadal
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The start of the French Open will be delayed for the second year in a row as a result of safety concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

Gilles Moretton, the president of the French Tennis Federation, said that after consulting with health officials, the Paris tournament initially scheduled to begin on May 23 will be pushed back a week to start on May 30. 

“This postponement will give us a little more time to improve the health situation and should allow us to optimize our chances of welcoming spectators at Roland Garros,” Moretton said Thursday, according to The Associated Press

“Whether for the fans, the players or the atmosphere, crowd presence is essential to the tournament, the first international sporting event of the spring,” he added. 

The move comes in response to a new surge in coronavirus infections in France, with the average daily number of new cases at more than 36,000 as of Thursday, according to Reuters

The country has recorded approximately 4.8 million total infections since the pandemic began. 

French President Emmanuel Macron late last month implemented a new one-month nationwide lockdown amid the rising infections and as the European Union has struggled with a slow vaccine rollout. 

The 2020 French Open was pushed back to September as a result of the pandemic, with crowds for the clay court Grand Slam limited to 1,000 per day.

Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal took the men’s singles win in last year’s tournament, and Iga Świątek became the first Polish player to win a Grand Slam singles title with her French Open victory. 

The 2020 Wimbledon tournament, meanwhile, was canceled due to the pandemic, the first time since World War II that the oldest Grand Slam was not played. 

The grass court Grand Slam is scheduled to start this year just two weeks after the French Open’s new end date of June 13. 

Wimbledon said it does not have any plans to move its matches, and on Thursday released a statement supporting the French Open’s decision to postpone. 

“This decision has been discussed with the Grand Slam Board, and, given the exceptional circumstances, is fully supported by the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open,” Wimbledon said, according to Reuters

Tags Associated Press coronavirus lockdown coronavirus pandemic Emmanuel Macron France French Open grand slam Paris Rafael Nadal Reuters Tennis Wimbledon

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