All business at French Open after perks of New York bubble

Paris (AFP) –


Alexander Zverev believes any gripes players have about the French Open hospitality, described by one rival as "much worse" than in New York, are unfounded despite the strict restrictions given the coronavirus pandemic.

Seeded sixth at Roland Garros, Zverev knows more than most about life in tennis' quarantine bubble following his run to the US Open final last month.

In Paris, at a tournament taking place four months later than usual due to the Covid-19 outbreak, players are confined to two city centre hotels. Apart from playing and training, they are barred from leaving.

"This is a business trip for us. We are playing a Grand Slam. We are not here for the fun of it. We're not here for entertainment," Zverev said after his second-round win over Pierre-Hugues Herbert.

"We are not here to necessarily have a good time. When you're winning, you're having a good time. But outside of the court you're not necessarily here to have a good time."

Canada's Vasek Pospisil said he much preferred the environment at the spectator-free US Open, where players were free to mill around the National Tennis Centre otherwise restricted to officials and just a handful of reporters.

Organisers there set up basketball hoops while mini-golf, pool and chess were other games available to players trying to kill time, as well as an outside area with a food truck.

"The hotel we're staying at, it's tough. We don't have anything," said Pospisil, who lost to Matteo Berrettini in the first round but is still competing in the doubles in Paris.

"The US Open there was a much bigger effort I felt from the organisation to make the time in the bubble a little bit more comfortable for the players."

He added: "You want to leave the site as soon as possible. The only place you can go is the hotel. Yeah, it's not easy because you can't even get fresh air."

- Bubble concept just a 'fantasy' -

Most players stayed at one of two hotels in a tightly controlled environment and were shuttled to and from Flushing Meadows, with elite players given their own boxes in Arthur Ashe and Louis Armstrong stadiums.

Jean-Francois Vilotte, French tennis federation (FFT) director-general, dismissed the idea of an "airtight sanitary bubble" at Roland Garros as "fantasy".

Instead the FFT has sought to minimise the risks, although the players' accommodation here is not strictly reserved for those competing.

"I would prefer the hotel not to have outside people, if that would have been possible," said Britain's Dan Evans. "It makes me a little nervous I think when I see the public in the hotel.

"If we're not allowed to leave, then we shouldn't be seeing public in the hotel, in my opinion."

Daniil Medvedev, whose stay in Paris was brief after a fourth first-round loss in as many appearances, said he understood the need for draconian measures in a country experiencing a surge in Covid-19 infections.

"I think everybody is a bit disappointed in a way that you cannot go out, especially Paris, such a beautiful city. But these rules are made for our health," said Medvedev.

Two-time Grand Slam finalist Kevin Anderson admitted to being "very impressed" by organisers' handling of the situation.

"I think all in all, given the fact we can be out here competing at the French Open, I think they've done a really good job," said the South African who faces Dusan Lajovic in round two.

While Zverev conceded there wasn't much comparison between New York -- which "felt like a massive camping trip with the players" -- and Paris, the German applauded the French Open for simply going ahead with the event.

"I feel like the tournament, because that was the first, they wanted to impress us players. They wanted to do something amazing," Zverev said of the US Open.

"Here, they are not doing as much. But credit to Roland Garros, because they are still making a tournament happen.

"There are other tournaments that just said, 'Okay, there is not going to be fans, there's not going to be as much money, we're just going to cancel it.'

"They are still putting on an effort to do the tournament and still putting in an effort to have a Grand Slam champion, to have a Roland Garros champion."