French Open 2023: Night sessions are being scrutinized following a scheduling issue last year.
When the French Open order of play is revealed each evening, one match will be scrutinized in particular.
The night-session match is billed as the highlight of the day, however just one of the ten matches last year featured female players.
And, given the criticism leveled at the Madrid Open organizers earlier this month for not allowing the women’s doubles finals to make presentation statements, scheduling equality seems especially timely.
Former world number one Amelie Mauresmo is the French Open tournament director, but she claims she cannot guarantee an equal number of men’s and women’s matches in the night sessions this year.
Mauresmo stated a year ago that the men’s matches had greater “appeal” and that the women’s draw lacked enough stars and exciting match-ups.
World number one Iga Swiatek called the statements “disappointing and surprising,” and Mauresmo, who is in her first year as tournament director, later apologized.
“To be honest, I’m not able to tell you anything about the number of men’s or women’s matches right now,” Mauresmo told BBC Sport last month at Roland Garros.
“I think we have to wait for the draws first, and for the head-to-heads every day, because that is really what is pushing us to make a choice – to know which match is going to be the match of the day.”
Unlike the Australian and US Opens, which have two night sessions every day, the French Open only has one. Mauresmo believes this complicates issues and points out that there is equal billing if the Centre Court program is taken as a whole.
“On this [Philippe] Chatrier Court, we see four matches.” We know we have two men’s and two women’s. The one [night] match makes it difficult to satisfy everyone, so we like to think of it as one.”
WTA CEO Steve Simon believes that having women’s matches in the evening session at all tournaments is “very, very critical” in the fight for equitable prize money all year.
“At the end of the day, you are what you say you are,” he said to the BBC in March in Indian Wells.
“Unless you show the product during primetime, you are telling the consumer what the value is.” So it’s critical that there’s a good mix of men and women in primetime advertisements.”
“I understand,” Mauresmo responds, “because he feels that the 8.30 match is better than the day matches.”
“It’s primetime in Europe, but we’re also an international event, so the requests we get from TV aren’t just from Europe.” We have requests from the US as well, so I’m just waiting to see what happens, and every day we’ll try to make the best decision possible – that’s all I can promise.”
Mauresmo believes there are more “stars” in the women’s game now that she has a French world number five in Caroline Garcia.
“I believe so. “I believe people become more acquainted with the players,” she says.
“Iga [Swiatek] won for the second time last year, as well as the US Open.” The head-to-heads are very crucial.”
The first point of the night-session matches has been moved up by 30 minutes to 20:30 local time (19:30 BST). This might allow players to enjoy better, warmer conditions while also preventing spectators from being left without public transportation following a late conclusion.
Last year’s quarter-final between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic ended at 01:15, well after the last metro had left.
As Roland Garros prepares to host both tennis and boxing at next year’s Paris Olympics, a roof will be installed over the Suzanne Lenglen Court in preparation for the 2024 events. However, there are presently no plans for a second night session due to the increased number of individuals that would visit the location.
“I feel better, more relaxed.” “I’m more prepared this year because I know what’s coming and because of last year’s experience,” Mauresmo says of her second year as tournament director.
“People must enter this stadium wanting to have a special day, to feel some emotion, to live a full life, to have a truly unique day.”
“That is why we are asking everyone who will be greeting the crowd to smile all the time and to be very friendly and welcoming.”