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The French Open tennis tournament will be delayed by one week because of the coronavirus pandemic, organisers said on Thursday.


The clay-court Grand Slam tournament was set to start on May 23, but first-round matches will now get underway on May 30. The French tennis federation said the decision was taken in order to maximise the chances of the event being played “in front of as many spectators as possible" in a safe environment.


The decision comes after surge in coronavirus cases in France and as hospitals approach saturation. To slow down the pace of infections, new nationwide restrictions have been enforced, including a three-week school closure, a month-long domestic travel ban and the closing of non-essential shops.


“This postponement will give us a little more time to improve the health situation and should allow us to optimize our chances of welcoming spectators at Roland Garros. Whether for the fans, the players or the atmosphere, crowd presence is essential to the tournament, the first international sporting event of the spring," said Gilles Moretton, the president of the French tennis federation


The postponement will have an impact on players' preparations for the grass court Grand Slam, with only two weeks now separating the French Open final and Wimbledon, which is scheduled for June 28-July 11.

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