Time to act on roof, Federer tells French

Updated on May 30, 2007 09:13 AM IST
Roger Federer has added his voice to the growing clamour for a retractable roof to be built for the French Open at Roland Garros.
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AFP | ByAllan Kelly, Paris

Roger Federer has added his voice to the growing clamour for a retractable roof to be built for the French Open at Roland Garros.

The roof issue came up again following the heavy rain that wrecked the opening two days of play at this year's tournament with just 14 ties being played in miserable cold, damp conditions.

The world No 1 was among those affected as his first round tie against Michael Russell of the United States started on Monday but only finished on Tuesday after a downpour forced the players off for good.

"The TVs and fans come to the stadium and plan a day at Roland Garros - they would be so happy to see us play no matter what the conditions," he said after sealing a straight sets victory over the American.

"So that's why Australia is so good. The same with Hamburg. Other tournaments have it too. Wimbledon is making a big step forwards in my opinion and I think it would be good for every tournament to have something like this.

"I know budget does not always allow it, but I would guess this tournament has the cash, so it should not be a problem."

Money indeed is not the barrier for the French Tennis Federation (FFT) which has been working on an ambitious plan to extend the Roland Garros complex on the western edge of the Paris city boundary for the last few years.

This would include the construction of a 15,000 square metres covered court or an installation with a retractable roof for use in bad weather.

They cannot extend to the adjacent Bois de Boulogne due to green zoning restrictions but land has been earmarked close to the nearby Porte d'Auteuil crossroads.

The plans at one stage were closely linked to the Paris bid to stage the 2012 Olympic Games as Roland Garros would have been the site of the Olympic tennis tournament.

But the heart-breaking loss to London in that race took a lot of the steam out of the plans and the project is currently bogged down in environmental and logistical concerns.

The FFTs director general Jean-Francois Vilotte, however, is hopeful that a new joint initiative from the FFT and the Paris Town Hall could get things moving again.

"The first two days just goes to show how imperative it is to find a solution as quickly as possible," he told L'Equipe magazine.

"The extension to Roland Garros is essential for the comfort of the fans but also for the general organisation of the tournament.

"At the end of the day, it's the image and standing of the tournament throughout the world that is at stake."

Vilotte said that the FFT was inviting architects to present their projects for the extension later this year with a view to overcoming all the planning barriers and having it built and operational for the 2011 French Open.

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