Zero alcohol in the stands and ‘hyper-reactive’ chair umpires: Roland Garros’ risky gamble

Amelie Mauresmo
La francesa Amelie Mauresmo, directora de Roland Garros / Foto FFT
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PARIS – The eternal battle between ‘wild’ tennis and ‘good manners’ tennis had a new chapter this week in Paris. The winner, after a few days of turbulence and doubt, seems to be clear: Good manners 1, Wild 0.

No alcohol in the stands and ‘hyper-reactive’ chair umpires: that’s the recipe of Amelie Mauresmo, former world number one and director of the French Open, for a series of situations that show the tournament is losing control.

Or, as Belgian David Goffin said earlier in the week: ‘Soon there are going to be smoke bombs, hooligans and fights in the stands. It’s starting to become ridiculous.’

The French public is not easy. Good can say Novak Djokovic, who in his loss to Rafael Nadal in 2022 watched in amazement as even his double faults were celebrated. Or Taylor Fritz in 2023, who got a thunderous boo when he shushed the crowd at the Suzanne Leglen after his victory over Frenchman Arthur Rinderknech.

‘I love you guys!’ said Fritz with an altered gesture and tons of irony after a match in which he received multiple assaults. As he spoke, the booing made it impossible to hear anything.

Goffin suffered the same this year in his debut match, where he even had chewing gum spat at him. And on Thursday it was world number one Iga Swiatek who gave a very didactic and heartfelt lesson in how the crowd should behave, in front of thousands of stunned spectators on Centre Court.

Mauresmo came out on Thursday to put the brakes on the affair before it got out of hand.

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‘After the Covid pandemic, we saw a change in people’s behaviour in terms of atmosphere. We really liked it, the emotions came back and people wanted to relive those kinds of emotions. And then we noticed, especially during the match between David Goffin and Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard, that some people went over the limit.’

‘We are happy to see the atmosphere and the emotions, (but) we will be uncompromising in terms of respecting the players and the game.’

In practice, what are those limits, Mauresmo was asked in a meeting with the press at the Roland Garros facility.

‘Respect for the players and respect for the game. No inappropriate words, no throwing objects. The instructions given to the security services are very clear and there will be no hesitation. What I want is to keep the passion for tennis and the game alive. If there is the slightest hint of behaviour that crosses the line, you will be out’.

What does that mean, where are the limits, who imposes them? It was then that Mauresmo resorted to an image unheard of in tennis: ‘hyper-reactive’ chair umpires.

‘I have personally passed on the instructions to the chair umpires, who have to be hyper-reactive to all this, trying to control the court and what is going on. I think a lot of the umpires are very experienced. We also choose umpires for the more heated matches who are experienced and who are perfectly capable of handling their match and the crowd. If there is the slightest behaviour that oversteps the limit, that’s the end of the match. Even if it is not always easy to identify an individual’.

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The idea that the slightest behaviour that goes beyond ‘the limit’ is the end of the match is as diffuse as it is controversial. Tennis already has its rules, and they are very clear. Rather than imposing a new rule, what is needed is to apply the existing ones.

fans Roland garros
Fans in Court Simonne-Mathieu during local player Corentin Moutet’s game // @WESTCOO

But Amelie Mauresmo had a card up her sleeve, a decision that will not be welcomed by everyone.

‘Until now, alcohol was allowed in the stands, except for the players and the presidency. From now on, that’s finished everywhere.’

While Amelie Mauresmo imposes ‘dry law’ at Roland Garros, Goffin enjoys a new status: he is a hero in the players’ lounge.

‘It’s funny, because after my match and especially after my press conference two days ago, I don’t know how many people and how many players came to see me and took my side. I was surprised that everybody said: ‘What you said is great, what you said to the press is great, I agree’. So everybody’s behind me, I’m very surprised.’

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