French Open 2022 – Paris at night? It runs hot and cold with the players

PARIS – When the organizers of Roland-Garros added night sessions to the schedule for the first time last year, they had matches like Tuesday’s in mind, as Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal go head-to-head for a spot in the semi-finals.

It is a repeat of last year’s semi-final, which had an electric atmosphere, despite only 5,000 fans being allowed due to COVID-19 restrictions. Tuesday there is a capacity of almost 15,000 and an enormous TV audience worldwide.

Ahead of a special DJ session to warm up the audience, the evening sessions have a noticeably different atmosphere from the daytime competitions. But fans still seem happy, and Amazon TV – which paid for exclusive rights to watch the night sessions in France in a three-year deal – seems happy.

But many players do not like them, especially Nadal, whose heavy topspin does not work as well when conditions are humid and the temperature is colder.

“I do not like night sessions on clay,” Nadal said after his victory in the fourth round. “I say the other day. I’m very clear about it. I do not like to play on clay at night, because the humidity is higher, the ball is slower, and can be very difficult conditions especially when it is cold.

“I think that makes a big difference in the way tennis is played on clay at night and during the day.”

Alexander Zverev, the No. 3 seed that against Carlos Alcaraz in the quarters Tuesday, once.

,, The evening sessions when it is 30 degrees, I have nothing to do [Celsius, 86 Fahrenheit] during the day, you know, “he said after his win in the fourth round.” If it’s 14 degrees, like today, it’s going to be something at night, 8, 9, something like that, it’s going to be difficult.

“Because my storage will be even slower, my forehead will be even slower. It will not be easy for me to play at 9.30 at night without sunlight, without heat and 8 degrees.”

Former world no. 2 Alex Corretja told Eurosport last year that the clay changes rapidly between day and night.

“It can create a bit of problems for players when matches go on late at night, because matches will end late, conditions will be completely different,” he said.

“It’s the same in different Slams we know, but here in particular the clay will be so wet.”

It’s not just the conditions.

Night sessions at Roland-Garros start at 20.45 in Paris, starting with music by DJ Set and Match before the matches even start at 21.00.

Nadal and Djokovic have played many epic battles over the years, including last year’s semi-final, which lasted 4 hours and 11 minutes.

If Tuesday’s quarterfinal takes a similar amount of time, it would end after 1 hour, something that would present the tournament with some problems.

With a finish so late, once players are done with their media commitments and their recovery programs, they probably will not get to bed until about 4 p.m.

Zverev blamed late-night sessions for his easy defeat by Alcaraz when he played in the Madrid Masters final earlier this month, after playing the previous two nights matches that ended in the early hours.

“I must say that the job of the ATP this week was an absolute disgrace,” he said in Madrid. “Two days ago I went to bed at 4 o’clock, 4:30 o’clock Yesterday I went to bed at 5:20 o’clock”

While Grand Slams have the advantage of offering players a day off between games, that day off becomes more of a balancing act when you go to bed just as the sun rises.

New Roland-Garros tournament director Amelie Mauresmo said a lot goes into deciding the schedule and who will play at night.

“We wanted to expand our efforts this year to make it more enjoyable for the players,” Mauresmo told ESPN. “Spaces are set up so that they can concentrate and stay in their own bubble to get ready for their game. The players have the opportunity to sleep. And the time of the end of their game is taken into account when planning them. match. next match. “

There will be a total of 10 night sessions. Of the nine scheduled so far, including Tuesday’s Nadal-Djokovic match, only one was a women’s match: Alize Cornet vs. Jelena Ostapenko.

The differences have been another source of strife. The ticket price does not change whether it is men or women in the night session, but Mauresmo admits that they have favored the men in schedule.

“Attention is paid to the most beautiful matches, whether it is male or female,” she said. “There are no special rules. But it is true that there are more men’s matches on the program because it offers a longer show time.”

However, Djokovic seems happy enough to play at night.

“You just have to adapt to that,” he said after his win in the fourth round.

“Of course, depending on who you play, sometimes it’s convenient to play at night; sometimes during the day. Yes, there is no standard or no formula that always works, so to speak. Even though I played historically very well and won many matches under the lights on various slams, especially in Australia. “

Night sessions are here to stay, it seems.

“The scheme makes it possible to manage the stream and present a musical show for a real spectator experience,” said Mauresmo. “We will review the situation at the end of this edition to see if any adjustments are needed.”

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