Rains no longer to play spoilsport during French Open


Roland Garros february 2020 update Image: Roland Garros

The French Tennis Association (FFT) has set an exemplar of kind recently by setting up the last section of the sliding roof over the Philippe-Chatrier court two months before the scheduled date. The huge project to transform the legendary court was concluded on February 5 this year.

The Philippe-Chatrier Court is located in Roland Garros Stadium which is a complex of tennis courts located at Paris in France that hosts the French Open.

Court Philippe Chatrier was built in 1928 as the high point of Roland Garros and remains its leading venue seating 15,500 spectators. It was revamped and expanded in 2019 and its surface remains clay.

With the installation of the retractable roof, the French Open now also boasts one court that can fall back on a roof in an emergency kind of situation when the weather elements are not at their best and the skies open up. The French Open is a major tennis tournament held over two weeks at the Roland Garros Stadium beginning in late May every year.

The clay court venue has been brought bang up to date with the addition of a retractable roof. The retractable roof covers the Philippe-Chatrier court (a surface area of 1 hectare (10,000m2). It is a tangible yet highly symbolic event.

The roof has been an exigency, especially during last year’s French Open. Not just because of the heavy showers that led to a whole day of the tournament being declared as washout, but, also due to the stormy weather the men’s second semi-final between Austrian Dominic Thiem (ranked World No. 4) and top of the heap player Serbian Novak Djokovic also suffered leading to the match being dragged on for two days.

The new roof will now go through several pilot studies until the end of April, before the French Open 2020 gets off to a start in the main field from May 24th 2020 to June 7th 2020. Should matches on the Court Philippe-Chatrier need the roof due to inclement weather conditions, it can be closed within 15 minutes.

Now that the Australian Open is over, tennis’ Grand Slam circuit has moved its spotlight to Paris and the installation of the new roof will make Roland Garros wear a new look this year.

ABCs of roof

According to organizers, the roof is made up of 11 individual trusses – each weighing 330 metric tons – and took a total of eight months to fit the structure. Each truss is split into seven sections measuring 15m long and 3m high.

It took a month to set up an assembly plant in the stadium and erect the cranes. It then took eight months to assemble the 11 trusses, install the acoustic panels, lift the trusses into place and fit the canvases.

Once they are assembled into two units, these sections make up a truss that spans 105 metres and is mounted with canvas.

The structure will cover a surface area of one hectare in total and the individual parts were made in workshops near Venice in Italy. The components were in the making over a period of two years.

Each truss is equipped with two cogged wheels, located on either side of the truss. These wheels pull the trusses along two cogged rails fixed to the top of the stands. They are driven by synchronized electric motors.

The movement of each truss is harmonized with each of its neighboring trusses and is driven by a computer system that monitors when the roof should open or close.

Roof advantages

Now that the roof has been put in place, it will allow for night sessions at the clay court Grand Slam event. From 2021, there will also be floodlights on the four main courts at the event, ensuring that play will not be stopped on these four courts once darkness envelops.

The French Open has often been at the receiving end by players and supporters in the past as there had not been any major refurbishment to the tournament site to make the whole ambience conducive and friendly both for fans and players. Currently, the Australian Open already has three covered courts while Wimbledon and the US Open have two each.

The French stop of the tennis tour is the last major to fit a retractable roof to join Wimbledon, the Australian Open and the US Open.

The king of clay Rafael Nadal will be pulling out all stops to extend his record to 13 French Open titles but the heat will be turned on by both Australian Open finalists – Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem – who are in supreme form. The duo is expected to give Nadal a run for his money.

However, another Grand Slam victory for Nadal would also put the Spaniard at par with Roger Federer on 20 career major titles.

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