Rain ruins Roland Garros and takes the stigma away from Wimbledon

El público se agolpa ante el estadio Philippe Chatrier en una tarde de lluvia en Roland Garros / SEBASTIÁN FEST
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PARIS – How romantic Paris is on a rainy day – and how rainy London is! Both clichés are being overtaken by reality: neither the spectators nor the players believe that Roland Garros is a romantic place today, and by now it is clear that Wimbledon no longer holds the title of rainiest Grand Slam.

It’s Wednesday in Paris, the fourth day of a tournament turned upside down by persistent rain. That the Suzanne Lenglen, the complex’s second-largest venue, has opened its sliding roof this year is a blessing, but the tournament is being ruined by the amount of water falling from the sky.

These days the ‘social classes’ of tennis were clearly evident: those with a ticket for the Lenglen or the Philippe Chatrier centre court were assured of spectacle, matches and, not least, not getting soaked.

Those with a ticket for the outdoor courts, on the other hand, wandered like souls in pain in their own Third World: no tennis to watch and no comfortable shelter from the rain, as the facilities are overcrowded and it is unlikely that everyone will get a place under cover.

On Tuesday the rain eased off for a while and a few matches could be played on outdoor courts. It was a case of improvising, and so it was that American Taylor Fritz, sprawled on a sofa in a nap, found himself being told he was due to play in half an hour, when the schedule says he should play in two and a half hours.

‘Due to bad weather conditions, all matches scheduled for today on the Simonne-Mathieu court and on the outdoor courts have been cancelled, the organisers announced in the early afternoon.

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‘Since less than two hours have been played on these courts today, Wednesday 29 May, subscribers to the Simonne-Mathieu and outdoor courts will receive a full refund.

Rain spoils first days of Roland Garros 2024 / SEBASTIÁN FEST

For those who can play, because they play indoors, the conditions are not ideal. The balls are heavier and bounce less. The arms suffer, because hitting a dry ball is not the same as hitting a wet ball. Not to mention when playing on outdoor courts after a rain shower: the ball gets bigger and heavier.

‘These kind of conditions don’t help at all. There is humidity, the ball becomes very big and it is difficult to move it. It’s hard to make winners, the points are getting longer and longer,’ described Carlos Alcaraz, one of the lucky ones who is already in the third round: the Spaniard is unlikely to play outside the two main venues. In other words, he has a roof over his head and guaranteed matches.

But an indoor, heavy-ball Roland Garros is a very different tournament than usual. Those different conditions can make the difference between winning and losing.

Climate change exists. Take Wimbledon, a tournament that used to be the king of rain and today guarantees much more stable weather conditions than Paris.

Add to that the fact that the All England is played much more from the back of the court than it was 20 or 30 years ago, and that those courts offer sections of hard, compacted earth and less fast grass, and you can exaggerate a little and conclude that Roland Garros is now as close to the Seine as it is to the Thames.

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More than 40 matches were suspended on Wednesday, adding pressure to the schedule over the next few days. And the forecast predicts that the rains will not start to fall until Sunday.

Paris has little in the way of romance today.

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