French Open: Rain washes out play for first time since 2000

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PARIS, FRANCE - MAY 30: Prolonged heavy rain prevents play from starting on day nine of the 2016 at Roland Garros on May 30, 2016 in Paris, France. (Photo by Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images)

Rain, rain, go away, come back another day. Organizers of the French Open hope it is next week, actually.

An already weather-affected Roland Garros hit a low Monday when rain washed out all of the play for the first time in exactly 16 years. Concurrently, it made Novak Djokovic’s task of completing his grand slam collection a little bit harder.

While organizers can’t control Mother Nature, they are sure to receive more criticism for being the only grand slam in tennis not to have a roof. Wimbledon and the Australian Open have covered courts and the U.S. Open follows suit for the first time at this year’s event starting in August.

Last week, French Open tournament director Guy Forget said the earliest a roof can be installed at the venue is 2020, not in 2018 as originally planned.

Residents in the area in southwest Paris — close to the Bois de Boulogne park — and environmental groups oppose an extension of the site that would also include a roof and have taken legal action.

“In other countries, things are quicker,” Forget, France’s former Davis Cup captain, told reporters. “So it’s a question of time. I think that 2020 is the ultimate date that we have set for ourselves. We hope that everything will be finished.”

Unfortunately for players and fans alike, the forecast doesn’t look great in the coming days.

Rain is predicted for at least two of the next three days. Hence a Monday men’s final may be in the works. Precipitation — no, not snow, even if temperatures were chilly — was a feature of week one.

World No. 1 Djokovic — due to meet Roberto Bautista Agut — and other players in the top half of the men’s draw face the prospect of playing Tuesday and then Wednesday, not getting a day off between matches, which is the norm at grand slams.

Djokovic is due to begin his match at 11 a.m. local time Tuesday (0900 GMT) and singles action is scheduled for four courts as officials attempt to play catchup. Normally at this stage, singles play is reserved for the two biggest courts, Philippe Chatrier and Suzanne Lenglen.

Playing on consecutive days last year at the tournament might have affected the Serb. He needed to take to the court on two straight days to finish off his semifinal against Andy Murray, leaving him without a day off ahead of the final against Stan Wawrinka — who then won in four sets.

Like Murray, Wawrinka sits in the bottom half and they have already completed their fourth-round tussles.

Djokovic criticized the tournament Saturday for not having lights, following his third-round win over Britain’s Aljaz Bedene.

“I just hope that soon Roland Garros will at least have lights … at least on the center court and Suzanne Lenglen,” Djokovic, who will become the first tennis player to pass $100 million in prize money if he reaches the quarterfinals, told reporters. “I mean, for a grand slam you need to have lights.

“I’m really hoping we can have that very soon for these particular situations, especially considering the fact that the forecast for weather is not that great in the following days.

“So it’s not good for anybody, you know, waiting the whole day, for players, for fans, for tournament organizers. I’m just hoping that things will go well in the future.”

Women’s fourth-round matches were all due to be completed Monday, too.

Serena Williams, chasing a record-tying 22nd grand slam in the Open Era, thus won’t take to the court against Elina Svitolina. The world No. 1 follows Djokovic on center court Tuesday.