Nadal-Djokovic, the match that sows discord at Roland-Garros

Nadal-Djokovic, the match that sows discord at Roland-Garros

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TENNIS – Since the draw for the Roland-Garros draw, this is the match that all tennis fans around the world have been waiting for. This Tuesday, May 31, Rafael Nadal (13 trophies in the French Grand Slam) and Novak Djokovic (number 1 in the world and double winner on Parisian clay) meet in the quarterfinals at Porte d’Auteuil.

A royal duel, worthy of a dream ending, which already triggers all passions. Made official since Sunday’s victories for the Serbian against the Argentinian Schwartzman and the Spaniard against the Canadian Auger-Aliassime, the game is, however, on everyone’s lips for an extra-sports aspect: its programming.

Because since the 2021 edition, France Télévisions is no longer the only main broadcaster of the French tournament. For fifteen million euros a year and thanks to the main track, the Philippe Chatrier, finally renewed, Amazon broadcasts the most beautiful poster of the day every night. And inevitably, the two media each want to be able to show the great poster of the start of the tournament.

If we take sports equity as the driving force

It remains to be seen how the attribution of the match will be decided. Normally, it is the sporting fairness between the different participants in the tournament that takes precedence as a decisive criterion. The idea is not to finish a Grand Slam with a finalist who would have finished his matches at one in the morning every two days while the other played quietly during the day.

From this point of view, the logical thing would be for Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic to face each other at night. Both have so far played only one evening game (last Wednesday and Monday respectively) while the other quarter-final to be played on the same day (between the prodigy Carlos Alcaraz and Alexander Zverev) involves a player – the Spaniard – who was in court late at night on Sunday, May 29. And the latter warned: it is not about finding yourself playing again in “night session” for reasons of sporting equity.

A deal that would therefore favor Amazon over France Télévisions, especially since international broadcasters (NBC in the United States, for example) will insist that the match be held as late as possible.

Except that the French public audiovisual sector intends to weigh as much as possible in the decision, in particular highlighting the certain visibility it offers to the event: the free broadcast and an audience that exceeded three million viewers in several matches since the beginning of the fortnight ( when Amazon does not communicate any figure).

An argument that counts for Nicolas Mahut, doubles champion at Roland-Garros, who wonders in the columns of The team about “the message that will be sent to France tennis”. And to advance an eloquent comparison: “Can we imagine the Alpe d’Huez stage (in the Tour de France, editor’s note) broadcast on a paid channel and therefore inaccessible to the vast majority of viewers? There we are also talking about the most anticipated match of the tournament”. However, a broadcast on a paid channel would deprive many practitioners and clubs of the meeting.

The puzzle of Amélie Mauresmo

Also, players could join the discussion. Since the start of the tournament, Rafael Nadal has repeatedly said that he does not like to play at night. “I don’t like to play on clay at night, the humidity is higher, the ball is slower. And the conditions can be very tough when it’s cold”, he had detailed before his round of 16 against Auger-Aliassime. An opinion shared by Nicolás Mahut, still on The team: “It is a living surface that is no longer the same at night”.

But I am not sure that the organizers want to upset the king of Roland-Garros, who, a few days before celebrating his 36th birthday, has made it clear that this could be his last participation in the French tournament.

According to the rule, it is up to the tournament management to decide in case of confrontation between broadcasters. In this case Amélie Mauresmo, the new director of Roland-Garros; she could have given explanations this Monday morning but her press point that she had planned to analyze the first week was postponed to Wednesday. If necessary, she could also call on the president of the French Tennis Federation, Gilles Moreton, to help find a compromise.

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