Having been pushed back four months to September to escape the worst of the coronavirus, the French Open gets underway on Sunday still struggling to loosen the grip of the deadly pandemic.
As a result, Rafael Nadal’s bid for a 13th Paris title, and a record-equalling 20th Slam, and Novak Djokovic’s pursuit of a second triumph in the French capital, to take him to 18 Majors, are vying with health concerns in the battle for public attention.
Having optimistically toyed with allowing 20,000 fans to squeeze into the compact Roland Garros site, that figure was downsized to 11,500 only to be slashed again to 5,000 as Covid-19 infections rose.
On Sunday night, the French Tennis Federation said that five players due to take part in men’s qualifying had been stood down.
Two had tested positive while three others had been in contact with a coach who had also returned a positive…