With all the luxuries that have been afforded the world’s top tennis players at Roland Garros this year – spacious dressing rooms and widescreen TVs – you’d think that on-court lighting would be a bit of a necessary. But not so according to tournament officials. Players will have to wait until 2017 when a retractable roof complete with lights will be installed into the stadium at Roland Garros.
With matches being suspended by darkness occurring more and more frequently at this tournament, the Parisian venue is the only one of the four Grand Slam stadiums to not offer players the ability to continue at night. The US Open and the Australian Open have long provided on court lights to prevent unnecessary match suspensions, and even the tournament organisers at Wimbledon have installed a retractable roof that is fitted with adequate lighting.
This lack of essential lighting is not going down well with the players, either. Both Tomas Berdych and Stanislaw Wawrinka went on to lose matches that were suspended due to darkness and completed the next day, and they’ve made clear their discontent at this “big problem” with Berdych commenting that “Every place you have at least lights. OK, we don’t have to play like a night session, but at least to have decent lights (so) that you can finish the match”.
Gilbert Ysern, Roland Garros director, admits that the problem is “a bit sensitive”, however legally the tournament is not able to accommodate playing at night – “We have a complex that has been approved for competition during the day, not at night…That’s what the law says.” Despite this, tournament organisers are considering exploring the possibility of adding some lights onto the stadium’s other courts, but factors such as security for players and spectators need to be considered before any matches can run on through into the night-time.
With so much innovation happening in terms of tennis equipment and the way in which today’s players are trained and developed, it seems that something as basic as continuing a match into evening hours is a little too extreme for organisers at the European tournament!