Persistent rain accompanied by a flood warning washed out the entire day’s play at the French Open on Monday for the first time since 2000, creating a scheduling headache and fuelling a debate about the need for a showcourt roof.
Calling play off shortly before 2pm local time, organisers told soggy and disappointed fans to apply for a refund from the tournament’s website as 10 fourth round singles matches, including those featuring world No.1s Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams, were pushed back to Tuesday.
“Unfortunately the weather conditions do not allow us to start matches today. No matches will be played and we apologise for this situation,” an announcer told fans over the PA system.
The French national weather centre issued an orange flood warning – the second highest alert level – for parts of northern France including Paris and surrounding areas, and said heavy rains could continue until Tuesday afternoon.
Instead of staging just four quarter-finals on Tuesday, organisers will now have to clear the backlog of last-16 matches first.
Now only two men’s quarter-finals will take place on Tuesday, defending champion Stan Wawrinka’s showdown with Albert Ramos Vinolas and second seed Andy Murray’s highly-anticipated duel with French favourite Richard Gasquet.
The delays will also affect competitors as those hoping to win the title will have to play matches on successive days if the tournament is to finish on Sunday as scheduled.
The washout in 2000 was on May 30, the second day of play, when over 50 first-round matches were held over. That tournament finished on time.
Rain forced the postponement of the 2012 men’s final between Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, which was held over two days and finished on the Monday.
While a handful of sodden spectators sat hunched under umbrellas on Court Philippe Chatrier watching a replay of Gasquet’s emotional win over Japanese fifth seed Kei Nishikori a day earlier, thousands of others took shelter by cramming into the corridors under the main showcourts.
Calls for a retractable roof over Court Phillipe Chatrier have intensified during a championships that had already endured four rain-hit days before Monday’s washout.
While all the three other grand slams have at least one showcourt with a roof, French Open fans will have to wait till 2020 or later before any covering appears at Roland Garros.
The miserable weather meant brisk trading for the shops and boutiques in the grounds.
And there were no prizes for guessing which products were flying off the shelves.
“Above all, it’s the umbrellas and ponchos that are doing well,” said Vincent Martinez, human resources coordinator for shops selling Roland Garros-branded merchandise.
“But people are going home earlier so in general we prefer sunny days.”