Beyond Roger Federer and Laver Cup: Isolation greets FFT after high-handedness


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Beyond Roger Federer and Laver Cup: Isolation greets FFT after high-handedness

It took one news update to send the tennis world into a frenzy. The French Tennis Federation’s decision to postpone the French Open from May to September not only directed backlash for the organisation but also unified the rest of tennisdom in a manner that was unseen up to then, despite the Coronavirus pandemic worry.

Players called out the decision, with some players such as Roberto Bautista Agut even terming it “unilateral”. The USTA, and the ATP and WTA came up with press releases of their own. And, then, there was the involving of the Laver Cup.

Ostensibly, the 20th September to 4th October dates of the French Open are going to clash with Laver Cup’s fourth edition that is to be held between 25th-27th September, in Boston, Massachusetts. And while the event’s organisation has been near-complete, including ticket sales and the confirmation of Roger Federer’s participation, the French Open’s decision came across as a seeming cutting-off of the event’s significance.

The USTA statement about its own schedule while denouncing the FFT’s declaration through this sentence, “…the USTA would do so in full consultation with the other Grand Slam tournament, the WTA and ATP, the ITF, and our partners, including the Laver Cup”, in turn, led to the mushrooming into an unexpected eventuality.

The semi-formal and yet-harder-to-place Laver Cup released its public statement about not backing down from its September schedule. The message was firm and polite, and gave the impression that a tug-of-war had erupted between Federer – through the Laver Cup – and the FFT.

The primary takeaway was also that the FFT’s decision was majorly a slight to the 20-time Grand Slam himself by not considering the Laver Cup as part of the men’s tennis schedule. The problem with such an inference is that it purposefully pits the sportsperson – in this case, Federer – with the sport, by way of the FFT and Roland Garros, without the former’s volition.

In the same manner, it also reduces the problematic scenario about the FFT’s line-of-thinking into a micro element – by way of pinpointing it on the player – rather than the macro factor – about the disregarding of the other tennis bodies – needing to be addressed.

Case in point: the USTA statement above. Significant as the inclusion of the Laver Cup was perceived to be, the focal point of its message was that it had mentioned each stakeholder involved in tennis’ administration.

Suffice to say, it was not long before the ATP and WTA decided to put across their joint message. Their communication stated that resumption of both Tours had been pushed to June from April, and that any further decision regarding potential restarting – or postponement – would be taken together in conjunction with all concerned parties.

This joining of forces is, then, an unmistakeable slight to a Major tournament in tennis’ hierarchy. This unification that one press release brought about has two major implications. The first that while the FFT’s announcement may have insinuated about its interests taking precedence over a player – and every other player and everyone else, without any consultation – the stakeholders’ response denoted the justifying absorption of not just one player but others, too, into its fold.

Secondly, even if the FFT may not have wanted to preoccupy itself with the Laver Cup, the fall-out of its one-sided decision has led to the three-day event finding its place as one among the others in the tennis itinerary, probably at the figurative expense of the French Open. Photo Credit: Roland Garros