Roland Garros aims for 2006 Sunday start
Sun Jun 5, 2005 1:44 PM BST
By Ossian Shine
PARIS (Reuters) - French Open organisers will do all they can to ensure next year's claycourt grand slam begins one day earlier, on a Sunday.
The move would allow them to benefit from higher television audiences and boost attendances by scheduling an extra weekend day.
"We are favourable to a Sunday start and we will do whatever we can so that our tournament will be able to start on a Sunday next year," French Tennis Federation (FFT) director general Jean Claude Blanc said on Sunday.
The Australian and French Opens, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open traditionally start on a Monday and last 14 days.
Wimbledon schedules play for only 13 days, factoring in a rest day on the middle Sunday.
"We consider it as something positive for tennis," Blanc said.
"When you see the audience on Monday, the first day of the tournament, is 1.2 million and goes to two million. If we start on a Sunday, we will have five million television viewers. This answers all our questions."
Blanc said discussions would continue at Wimbledon later this month with the organisers of women's and men's tennis, the WTA and the ATP.
"I believe instead of having two weeks and two Sundays, having instead two weeks and three Sundays would be great. We are not adding a complete weekend," Blanc said.
FFT president Christian Bimes said that while not all the four grand slams were in favour of a Sunday start, they were all keen to work together on the project.
"The four presidents found an agreement, which is remarkable," Bimes said.
"At the end of the (Grand Slam) committee (meeting), I said that Wimbledon, which is not interested in a Sunday start, wanted to be associated with the other three tournaments in this operation that we wished, and which is going forward.
"We are finishing our discussions about that with the ATP and the WTA. These discussions will come to an end during the summer. The French Open will be the first one starting on a Sunday in 2006."
© Reuters 2005.