Well, that didn’t take long.
After an Australian Open in which logistical decisions rightly came under fire, the French Open — before playing a single main-draw point on Sunday — has already stumbled over the rock in the pathway known as tennis scheduling.
To be sure, this is not nearly as severe as the Australian Open women’s final being played outdoors, but it still rates as yet another unforced error by tournament organizers. It might not affect the course of the tournament, but one principle keeps evading the people who schedule (and make other logistical decisions about) tennis tournaments: The players involved might overcome hardships, but whether they do or not, there should be few to no questions about whether a scheduling decision has an impact on an outcome.
Simplified: This is not a question of impropriety so much as the need to avoid the APPEARANCE of impropriety. When fishy decisions are made, people ask questions. This doesn’t mean a conspiracy is in fact real, but it leads people to wonder if tournament officials are trying to engineer results… and that simply shouldn’t happen. To be more precise, that scenario shouldn’t happen whenever it is easy to avoid it.
This scenario was easy to avoid.
This is not hard. At least, it WAS not hard or, more accurately, it was not SUPPOSED to be hard… but Roland Garros organizers messed it up.
It was really rather simple: Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev both landed in the same half of the draw. Thiem chose to play in Lyon. Even if he had failed to play on Saturday in Lyon, French Open honchos knew the possibility existed that Thiem could play a full week and have a very short turnaround time for Paris. Yes, we all think Thiem shouldn’t have played Lyon, but things being what they were, one would think a tournament would give a highly-seeded player as much of a buffer as possible. It did not. Thiem and the bottom half of the draw will play BEFORE the top half of the draw. Thiem in particular will start his French Open on Monday.
Alexander Zverev is the only man on tour who — in the three weeks linking Munich/Estoril, Madrid, and then Rome — played three full weeks of tennis. He made the final in all three events, winning twice. Since Zverev AND Thiem — two players particularly crowded by the calendar — were both in the same half of the draw, this should have been an easy call for Roland Garros to start both men on Tuesday, and have the top half of the draw on Sunday and Monday.
Nope. Zverev and Thiem got the Sunday-Monday half, Nadal the Tuesday half. Moreover, Zverev was placed on Sunday, not Monday. He played the most tennis over the past three weeks and then received the shortest turnaround from Rome to Paris, since Nadal — his Rome final opponent — will start Tuesday.
What substantial and compelling countervailing reason — a reason with heft and considerable weight — existed to push Zverev and Thiem into the earlier (Sunday-Monday) slots and the top half of the draw into the Tuesday slot? Sure, other players played in Lyon and Geneva on Saturday, but none as accomplished as Thiem. Making him play earlier rather than later in the first round — the same with Zverev after his long haul in May — reflects a decision-making process without prudence or care.
Is this how it’s gonna be? In 2018, unforced scheduling errors in tennis are flowing the way errors fly off Camila Giorgi’s racquet.
The sad part is that whereas Giorgi’s game seems beyond repair, scheduling should be able to be fixed quite easily… but no one gives the appearance of caring.
Image taken from zimbio.com