Tue, Feb 15, 2011 - Page 18 News List

French Open to remain at Roland Garros: federation

AP, PARIS

The French Tennis Federation voted to keep the French Open at its traditional Roland Garros venue and renovate the existing site by making it considerably larger, more attractive and modern, rather than moving it elsewhere.

Three other venues were bidding to host the clay-court Grand Slam tournament by 2016.

The proposed new sites in Versailles, close to the hugely popular Versailles Palace, and in the suburbs at Gonesse and Marne-La--Vallee were much more expensive because they would have required building from scratch.

The federation said on Sunday that it had chosen the option of renovating Roland Garros, located in western Paris for more than 80 years, by making it “60 percent” bigger while preserving its “unique history.”

“The federation decided to stay on its original site at Porte d’Auteuil,” the federation said on Sunday. “It chose an ambitious, prestigious project resolutely looking to the future.”

The new-look Roland Garros will feature 35 outside courts, a new press center and a center court with a retractable roof so that matches could go ahead when it’s raining and where night sessions could be played.

Kim Clijsters, who became the No. 1 player in the world yesterday, welcomed the news.

“I would have thought that it was sad to see it go away from the place where I know [the French Open] should be ... It has a lot of great memories for me even as a junior,” Clijsters said.

However, former No. 1 Amelie Mauresmo, now director of the Open Gaz de France tournament, thinks it should have moved.

“I hope they [the federation] won’t get in trouble by taking this decision,” Mauresmo said. “I don’t know if the tennis aspect prevailed in that decision. I have some doubts.”

Cost issues also appear to have played a crucial part in the -decision making.

The federation said that renovation costs at Roland Garros are expected to be 273 million euros (US$370 million), compared with an estimated price tag of between 470 million euros and 800 million euros for the other potential venues.

Gonesse was eliminated in the first round of voting and Versailles in the second. In the final round, Roland Garros received 70.13 percent of the votes to eliminate Marne-La-Vallee.

Mauresmo, who struggled to match expectations in front of her home fans at Roland Garros, thinks “what happened in the last few weeks or last few days is very political” as to how the decision was reached.

Gonesse, whose bid was led by Gonesse Mayor Jean-Pierre Blazy, received only 3.7 percent of votes in the first round.

Nevertheless, the federation praised all the other losing bids for offering “the necessary guarantees for a good organization” of the French Open.

Roland Garros is the smallest of the four Grand Slam venues that also includes the Australian Open in Melbourne, the US Open in Flushing Meadows, New York, and London’s traditional grass-court event at Wimbledon.

Fans and players have regularly complained about the congestion at Roland Garros because of its narrow walkways and the stiflingly limited size of the complex.

Plans call for an extension of the current site from 8.5 hectares to about 13.5 hectares.

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