ISLAMABAD, September 27 (online): Roland Garros gets underway in chilly, damp Paris on Sunday still in the grasp of the coronavirus which organisers had hoped they would escape by unilaterally pushing back the clay court Grand Slam event by four months. Opening day will see 2018 champion Simona Halep start her bid for a third major while 40-year-old Venus Williams kicks off her 23rd French Open. Andy Murray takes on fellow three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka in the day’s marquee tie in a rematch of their epic 2017 semi-final duel.
However, it will be an eerily unfamiliar tournament, even for defending champion Rafael Nadal, chasing a 13th Paris title, and 2016 winner and world number one Novak Djokovic, as well as Serena Williams, pursuing an elusive 24th major.
A resurgence of Covid-19 cases means that only 1,000 spectators will be allowed into the grounds each day.
In 2019, more than 500,000 people watched the two-week tournament on site.
Organisers had hoped to welcome 20,000 fans a day but in the space of just a few weeks, that figure was quickly downsized to 11,500, then 5,000 before the French government slashed it to a 1,000 maximum