French Open could leave Paris in 2016 and beyond

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> French Open officials are considering a move outside Paris for the clay-court Grand Slam tournament in 2016.

Updated: May 22, 2010 15:42 IST
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Defending champion Roger Federer and four-time winner Justine Henin may not be in favor of the proposal, but French Open officials are considering a move outside Paris for the clay-court Grand Slam tournament from 2016.

Gilbert Ysern, general director of the French tennis federation, told a news conference on Saturday that relocating the event from Roland Garros is being considered because it needs more space to stay competitive with the three other Grand Slam tournaments.

Three options are being examined, including one next to Versailles castle. Another possible site is near Disneyland Paris.

The French Open has been at Roland Garros since 1928 and the federation has a contract there till 2015. The French federation assembly is expected to make its decision in February.

"I think by the time I finish my career, the tournament will still be at Roland Garros," Federer said. "I don't know if the French Open will one day move to Disney, I doubt it. There is more space outside the city, I understand, but come on ..."

Henin accepted that space is an issue at Roland Garros but said its tradition is one of the French Open's main assets.

"I hope they find a solution to keep the tournament here," Henin said. "The tradition is here. This is my favorite tournament. Maybe it (a move outside Paris) will happen. You need to be realistic. Compared to other Grand Slam tournaments, which are always getting bigger, it has become difficult in terms of space. Everyone knows that."

The French Open and Wimbledon are the Grand Slam tournaments that have never been moved but facilities at Roland Garros have become out-dated. The lack of space for 450,000 annual spectators, players, journalists and sponsors is a problem, while the absence of covered courts leaves the tournament vulnerable to bad weather.

"We have to create the Roland Garros of 2040," French federation vice president Bernard Giudicelli said. "We will do everything to make sure that Roland Garros 2016 will be played in a bigger and modernized stadium."

The French Open's facilities are spread over 21 acres, while Melbourne Park _ the site of the Australian Open _ and Wimbledon each have 49 acres. Flushing Meadows for the U.S. Open has 34.5 acres.

"Some players told us they cannot imagine leaving Paris," Ysern said. "But if we stay, we have to modernize the facilities to aim for excellency. We need more space and a retractable roof over the center court."

Jo-Wilfied Tsonga said the French Open should no longer be called Roland Garros if it moves outside Paris.

"I would prefer to stay here and make the tournament bigger here because this site is wonderful," Tsonga said.

If the tournament stays in Paris, three next-door areas will be added to Roland Garros at a cost of about euro200 million ($251 million). Building a new stadium outside Paris would cost an estimated euro600 million ($754 million).

Versailles castle is 19 kilometers (12 miles) from downtown Paris. Disneyland Paris in Marne-La-Vallee is 48 kilometers (30 miles) from the French capital, while Gonesse, near the Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport, is 32 kilometers (20 miles) away.

Should the tournament be relocated, the new site must cover more than 74 acres and hold 55 tennis courts _ two with a retractable roof _ and will be able to receive up to 60,000 people a day.

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