Wednesday was not a good day for the sport of tennis. A complete washout of the schedule put the top halves of the draw in the women’s and men’s tournaments in a very difficult position. Roland Garros scheduling created this mess by not putting all four women’s quarterfinals on Tuesday and all four men’s quarterfinals on Wednesday. Had Roland Garros followed Wimbledon’s lead, this situation wouldn’t be nearly as imbalanced in the top and bottom halves of the two draws. (The Australian Open and U.S. Open also ought to follow Wimbledon, but haven’t yet done so.)
That is an embarrassment for tennis. It is not anything to be happy about.
However: While this day was and is rotten for tennis and its fans, one can at least make note of a smaller point which exists separately from the embarrassing scheduling failures which have been magnified by the rain in Paris.
That smaller point: We can fully and truly dispense with the notion that “outdoor tennis” is inherently better, or more necessary, or somehow “nobler” than indoor tennis.
This will be — thank God! — the last year in which Roland Garros plays without a roof over Court Philippe Chatrier. Washouts such as today will be gone, forever, at the four majors. Every major site will be able to play its featured matches. During second weeks, a four-match collection of women’s and men’s quarterfinals will be able to be completed. (The two women’s quarters would start at 11 a.m., the two men’s quarters after the women. A long men’s quarterfinal could create a delay, but with lights involved, all four matches would be finished.)
Can we universally acknowledge this is a good thing?
If we can — and I hope we can — one can then admit that this business about referring to the majors as “outdoor tournaments” can go away.
The inherent identifying element of the four major tournaments is not that they are played outdoors. Extreme heat (Australia and New York), constant rain (Paris), or frequent delays (Wimbledon) should not be seen as a feature or something the players should have to endure. Just move indoors and keep the trains running on time. It is fairer for the players. Draw-based imbalances such as the one we currently have in Paris would be reduced — not eliminated, but surely reduced.
TV rights-holders will be happier. Tournament directors will have fewer tough decisions to make. The various people who have a stake in the outcomes and progressions of tennis tournaments will all benefit.
This is good.
We shouldn’t have to argue about indoor-or-outdoor anymore. We should be focused on the only true identity of the four majors: the surfaces they are played on. Hardcourt, grass, clay — these are the INHERENT parts of the four majors. Indoor-or-outdoor should, as always, depend on the weather. If the weather is bad, moving indoors is now seen as the natural and logical solution.
It’s a new day for tennis, even though the sport refuses to change in so many other ways.
At least it has changed on this (weather) front.