GILBERT YSERN

STEFAN FRANSSON

CHRISTOPHE FAGNIEZ

 

GILBERT YSERN:  (In French.)  Good evening.  Unfortunately, this is not a press conference for the end of the tournament.  We’ll have to wait till tomorrow for the end.

So of course we will answer your questions.

            Q.  Can I ask my question in English?  We all know that TV rights dictate the scheduling everywhere, in the US Open, here, and everywhere.  The weather forecast was terrible.  We knew exactly that it would start to rain at 5:00.  Couldn’t you decide to start the final to make it more regular at 1:00 or maybe even at 2:00?  At this point it would have probably been finished.  That is first question.  Second question is for Fransson, Nadal told you something, and like you should never take decision when I ask you.  I would like to know your reaction, if that is acceptable or not?

GILBERT YSERN:  (In English.)  Before starting, I should have reminded everybody of course that I’m no longer the referee of the tournament, so any decision related to the sport and how the matches go on is obviously the referee’s, which is Stefan’s decision; Christophe being the chief the operations is here to help me if I can’t answer any question.

I will answer the question you asked me.  While TV do not dictate the schedule, I’m not going to get into details how we do the schedule every day.  Of course the expectations from various broadcasters are one important factor in the schedule every day, but they do not dictate.

The second thing, I’m sorry, you can’t say that everybody knew for sure at what time it was going to rain today.  I did not know, and if anybody is able to tell for sure at what time it’s going to rain the next day, I’m willing to hire him.  He’s going to help us a lot.

It’s not that precise unfortunately the day before any competition.  Why did we not start earlier, you have to imagine that even though TV does not dictate, there are arrangements that are made weeks and months before the event regarding starting times and all that.

You cannot change overnight and tell all broadcasters in the world, Sorry, but you have to change everything and wait because we are going to change the schedule of tomorrow’s matches.  It doesn’t work like that.  Out of respect to all the broadcasters we cannot do it, change it at the last minute, because of risk in terms of the forecast.

So, no, we could not start any earlier than 3:00.  Then I’m going to let Stefan answer his part.

STEFAN FRANSSON:  Thank you.  Well, as I’m sure you all know and understand, when the weather conditions are not great, somebody needs to make a decision when we think it’s playable or nonplayable.

Of course we talk to the players, as well, but in this case we took them off at 5‑2, 5‑3 in the second set because it started to rain harder; then we brought them back on court.  Both players didn’t have any comments about bringing them back on the court, even if it was spitting a little bit.  I told them that when they walked out.

Then of course, as you say, Rafa was disappointed, not happy, whatever you want to say, when we stopped in the fourth set.

But, again, it’s not the decision that one player makes or not even in all cases both players, but a decision that, in this case, I have to make and take into consideration, you know, that the court is playable or not playable.  That’s basically what happened.

 

Q.  Did you not agree with Nadal then that it was hazardous an hour earlier as when you actually came off?

STEFAN FRANSSON:  I don’t think it was, because that’s when they both agreed to come back on.  There was nobody who said anything throughout that whole third set.

 

Q.  You say that you couldn’t react to the rain because arrangements were in place, but the last Grand Slam final went to six hours without any interruptions; the one before that went to four‑and‑a‑half.  So surely you were possibly not paying enough heed to what was happening in the sport, that matches are going so long now that you’re always going be up against the clock.

GILBERT YSERN:  Well, it’s a fact that matches seem to be getting longer and longer in the moment and in the big events.  Having said that, look at the semifinals.  Who would have expected two short semifinals as we had this year?

So honestly, starting a final at 3:00, knowing we usually can play through 9:30, which means six‑and‑a‑half hours, I think was safe enough when three months ago we set that starting time of 3:00.

Once again, it was a very long final in Melbourne, but I don’t think it was a wrong decision when we knew we had more than six hours and a normal condition of courts to play that final.  I don’t think it was a wrong decision.

 

Q.  Do you think for future years then you may start it before 3:00, knowing now the length of matches, knowing the experience today?  Is that written into the TV contracts, starting time?  Is that something you can move earlier, let’s say, for next year?

GILBERT YSERN:  It’s not in the contracts, and that’s why I said before that TV does not dictate anything ‑ nor do our contracts.

So if we think it would be a better option to start a bit earlier, we can consider it.  We will probably ask ourselves the question when we work on next year’s event.

Having said that, again, I don’t think as of today that starting at 3:00 is too late for a final here in Paris.  I don’t think it is.  Again, look at the semifinals.  Both went very long last year and were very quick this year.

So I don’t think we should make a decision based on what happened today or based on the length of the final in Melbourne.

So, no, it’s not decided yet that we’re going to stick to 3:00, but I don’t think at this stage we should really start earlier.

 

Q.  Back to the same point.  You said no one could tell when it was going to start raining.

GILBERT YSERN:  Yeah.

 

Q.  The forecasts were pretty clear for a couple of days at least that it wasn’t going to get better; it was only going to get worse during the day.  You also said schedules can’t be changed overnight, but now they are being changed overnight because we haven’t got the match finished today.  Fans may not be able to come back tomorrow to watch the game.  There will be money spent on hotel rooms for an extra night, logistical arrangements to be rearranged, massive upheaval for a lot of people.  They’re going to be asking why, and the obvious questions will be like we used to hear at Wimbledon all those years about roofs and other measures like that.

GILBERT YSERN:  Start with the last part of your question.  You know, a roof is being considered and is on the way.  So to a certain extent I can say that.  But of course it’s going to be in five years’ time.  We will have to keep our fingers crossed for the next five years and hope we are going to avoid the rain on the final days.

Then to answer the previous parts of your questions, Yes, of course we are adjusting the schedule for tomorrow now because we have to.  I don’t think you can’t compare two things, one being adapting something that you have to because unfortunately you can’t finish a match in the day.

That happens.  It may happen every single day during the fortnight, so you have to adapt to the situation you’re facing.  Of course there are consequences for the next day and changing a schedule because there is a risk in terms of forecast.

I will say on Friday evening when I first talked to some of you guys the forecast was that it was going to be very difficult, heavy rains in the morning and clear up in the afternoon.

At this stage we wanted to be safe, we might have considered starting a little bit later just to avoid having the people in and having to wait a little bit.

That was Friday evening.  So you can’t say that two days before we knew.  Honestly yesterday afternoon, well, by the end of the day, around 6:00, the latest forecast was a series of showers that could hit us and not the organized front that we ended up finding on the screens today.

It did change a lot overnight.  Unfortunately, this is beyond our control.  We all know of the limitations in terms of weather forecasts.  It’s just predictions, but it’s not something 100% sure.

Once again, what we found out when we arrived here this morning was very different from what the forecast was yesterday night.

 

Q.  This might be a question for Stefan.  I’m not sure, Gil.  Why is tennis the only sport where, when it says a 3:00 start, it never starts on time?  Not just here, but at all the tournaments you’re in charge you charge of.  And also, why do you tolerate so much the players ignoring the advice of the umpires to stop warming up?  They’re often late out of their chairs, taking, you know, after the first game of the set, taking a sort of prolonged stop at the chair when they’re not meant to.  Why do you tolerate this all the time?

GILBERT YSERN:  That’s for you.

STEFAN FRANSSON:  That’s for me it sounds like, yes.  Well, again, we’re going back to the first question about TV and all that.  It’s a little bit also related to when we need to have the walk‑on.  Today the walk‑on was supposed to be, if I remember correctly, [] or 1:30 or something.  They were about 30, 40 seconds late from that.

I guess you were saying that they should start play at 3:00, but then on the other hand I don’t think most of the TV people, if they are here, would like to have it that way.

So, you know, everybody knows that 3:00 is the walk‑on time, give or take a few minutes.  It’s not actually when the match starts.  That’s, you know, where it is everywhere, basically.  You know, you might think that’s wrong and it should start when the time is on the schedule, but that doesn’t work anywhere, as far as I know.

 

Q.  Today it mightn’t have been the difference between finishing, but it might have been.  You continually tolerate players taking far too much time at the warmups, getting up from their chairs, changeovers.  Why do you let this go on?  You’re in charge.

STEFAN FRANSSON:  Well, I think the rules that the chair umpires apply is the ones that you know and the ones that you talk about.  Whether there are a few extra seconds or not, I’m not going to argue that.  I’m sure there is in a lot of cases.

You know, I don’t really have a good answer to that more than to say that the chair umpires have their role and they are controlling the match.  If they want to tell the players to speed up, they do that.  You know, it’s a chair umpire decision when they’re on the court.

Then whether we should change the rule and make it stricter and all that, that’s a different question, I think.

 

Q.  Did Rafa say anything specifically to you about the condition of the tennis balls?  As a follow‑up to that, I think we’re starting the 31st game tomorrow.  Is there any rule or exception you can make to switch, to come out with new tennis balls, or will the balls that were in play tonight go into play tomorrow?

STEFAN FRANSSON:  Yes, the balls from tonight will go into play tomorrow.

 

Q.  Is there any time you can ever make an exception?

STEFAN FRANSSON:  Well, I guess it would be if the balls are, you know, broken or in such a bad condition that we would consider them broken.  But I don’t think that’s going to be the case.

If they were wet tonight, I have a feeling they will be dry tomorrow.

 

Q.  Did he say anything to you specifically about that?

STEFAN FRANSSON:  About the balls for tomorrow?  No.

 

Q.  About today while you were on the court.

STEFAN FRANSSON:  No, not on the court.  But afterwards when I spoke to him he said that the balls were heavy and wet.

 

Q.  So I think that one comment is that I think that the TV spectators, they want to see the warmup and the toss, as well, not just the points.  But the French weather forecast has been very precise in the last two days, amazingly precise.  What did they say about tomorrow?  What was their forecast for tomorrow that made you come up with the 1:00 p.m. court time?

GILBERT YSERN:  The weather tomorrow is not excellent, but it is okay through 5:00 or 6:00 p.m. with a risk of some hours during the day.

The type of weather ‑ you’re not an expert of course ‑ but the type of weather you get after an organized front has passed over you, so then you have a couple of showers coming back again.

So that’s the type of weather we’re supposed to have tomorrow:  some showers.  Few of them ‑‑ well, that’s with the guys in charge of forecast just before joining you in this room.  They’re pretty optimistic.  We probably might not have no shower at all, but the risk is a couple of showers, and a bigger risk by the end of the day, probably.

So we think that 1:00 is probably a safe starting time.  Can’t start too early given the guys were still in the locker room waiting for a decision by 7:30 or 7:45 probably when you told them.

STEFAN FRANSSON:  Yeah, just after 8:00.

GILBERT YSERN:  After 8:00.  Wouldn’t be fair to ask the guys to be back on court earlier than that, so we thought 1:00 is the best compromise for tomorrow.

 

Q.  You said earlier that you can play here till 9:30 on a good evening.  Why are we not out there playing now?

GILBERT YSERN:  Why not playing now?

 

Q.  Why are they not playing now?

GILBERT YSERN:  Just because the latest forecast we had ‑‑ that could have been for you.  I don’t know.  You or me.

STEFAN FRANSSON:  That’s all right.

GILBERT YSERN:  But what we heard at 7:30 approximately when we made the decision not to resume play tonight, it was going to rain through 8:00, 8:15 approximately.  Then we know we need a few minutes to uncover the court, get the court ready and then get the players back to the court and rewarm up.

So we ended up thinking that the best scenario is that they could have been playing again by approximately a quarter to 9:00.  We can play through 9:30 under normal, good conditions.

We also checked with the guys in charge of the forecast that it would not clear up after the rain, but it would be pretty dark with lots of clouds.  It wouldn’t be clear, so we thought at this stage that in the best case, we would have maximum of half an hour of decent conditions to play.

We thought it would not ‑‑ there was very little chance they could finish the match, and it will not have been fair for the guys to put them on court again, just play a few games, and have to come back tomorrow.

In which case we thought it was a fair decision for them.  Then I should say that it’s his decision.  When I’m saying fair decision, it’s the referee’s decision to call them off for the day and have them back tomorrow.

THE MODERATOR:  Going to French questions.

 

Q.  Just to be sure, Nadal wanted to continue playing tonight.  What about Djokovic?

STEFAN FRANSSON:  (In English.)  When we stopped the match on the court, well, as you all know, Rafa I guess didn’t really want to play on, and Novak said that the court was too slippery to play on.

 

Q.  (In French.)  What about the tickets?  What about for the people?

GILBERT YSERN:  Tomorrow for tickets, of course the objective is that for all people who want to come back, they can come back.  So today’s ticket will still be valid tomorrow.

The objective also being to have a crowd around the court.  It’s important for the players.  You know that we have a website through which we can transfer tickets electronically and we can change the identity of the final user.

So all this has been activated today for tomorrow night as the selling platform will be reactivated.  It’s probably already active.

So we have these two means of transmission to resell tickets on the platforms.  All people who can’t make it tomorrow have this option to sell their tickets to someone else.

We also make sure that the court, that we have big enough crowd on the court.  We have people who have tickets, who had tickets for Court No. 1 today, and we will allow them to come and watch the Chartrier Court tomorrow should there be any tickets left at the end of the evening or tomorrow morning.

 

Q.  I imagine you’ve been working on this backup plan for a while.  Can you tell us what it means in terms of staff that you’ll have to reactivate and in terms of cost?

GILBERT YSERN:  It’s a bit early for me to tell you.  You’ll be a bit disappointed.  I can’t give you any figures.

We have been working with our different partners and with our teams, and we’ve been doing that for three days in order that we can better manage tomorrow.

It’s been 40 years since we had to face such a situation, so we have been working on this for three days.  Of course we had this written in our contracts.  All our contracts planned the possibility of having additional days, as will be the case this year.

So we’ll make sure that all our service providers in all departments of the tournament, we want to be able to offer the same level of service tomorrow.  How many people this will represent, I can’t tell you.

Of course we’ll have reduced staff because it’s only for one court.  So we’ll have smaller staff, but the quality of service will be equivalent, especially for service to players and to the court to make sure that the final is not deteriorated.

This will come at a cost for the French Federation, of course.  I can’t tell you how much it will cost.

We have not started assessing that because we were not in a position to ask ourselves we need to know how much it costs before we decide and do it.  We have to do it, so we do it, and then we’ll look at the figures.

 

Q.  I just want to make sure, you said Novak said it was slippery, so he wanted to stop, as well?

STEFAN FRANSSON:  (In English.)  Right.

 

Q.  What about the court?  Will it be left under the tarpaulin?  Do you have any measures to dry the court?

GILBERT YSERN:  No, you know, our courts are remarkable maintained and taken care of, so our teams will decide whether they need to be sorted, if we need to put some sodium to absorb the humidity or if we need to add a bit of water.  They are in charge.  They’re professionals.

They will feel what they have to do for the court to be in the best playing conditions.  However, it’s not with a few drops of rains that fell on the court today.  That won’t cause the court to be in a bad state tomorrow.

But our teams will assess the court as they do every day.

 

Q.  You said that in normal conditions we can finish the match in six hours.  The last match a match that finished on a Tuesday in 1973, but the last three finals that were played in a slam were played by Djokovic and Nadal.  Each time the match was very long, not always six hours but four hours, five hours, three‑and‑a‑half hours.  So normal conditions.  Last year, there was rain one minute after the end of the prize ceremony.  So the possibility of Nadal and Djokovic making it to the final were great, and you need to take this into account.  You both know that Nadal and Djokovic take a lot of time each time they play, and maybe he should think about it, because they take far more than 25 seconds always.  One will bounce the ball 17 times; the other one takes a lot of time, as well.  So normal conditions, standard conditions, but maybe this needs to be revisited.  Yesterday I watched the weather forecast, and they said at 5:10 it’s going to rain and it started raining at 5:10.

GILBERT YSERN:  Well, quite honestly, if any of you in this room is capable of providing me with a weather forecast that’s going to tell me exactly at which minute it’s going to rain, I’ll sign a very big contract with that person.

So I can’t let you say that you were told yesterday it would rain at 5:10 today.  That’s not serious.  No one in the world has a weather forecast service that makes it possible to announce 18 hours ahead of time when it’s going to rain.  That’s not serious.

Well, then, each time when you play the lottery, there is a winner.  So you can make a prognosis and I can tell you there will be a shower at 11:12.  If there is, you’re going to say I’m a genius, but then I’m just a lucky person.  You can’t be that accurate.

I didn’t hear your other question.  What was the question?

 

Q.  The question was ‑‑ well, you have Nadal and Djokovic reaching the final, and you knew that the match could last for a lot of time.  Just half an hour shy and you can be in trouble.

GILBERT YSERN:  Yes, but it’s difficult to schedule the final in Roland Garros a long time beforehand thinking the final is going to be Nadal and Djokovic and the match is going to last very long.

When I was umpire, each time we were faced with this situation, I said that as an umpire, We’d love to be able to schedule the match the day after they took place once you knew how long they were.  Look at the semifinals last year.  Both semifinals were very long; whereas this year they were very short.

So we all know this is the strength and beauty of our sport, but it makes our sport much more complicated.  Unlike other sports, we can’t plan the length of a match beforehand.  We know that Nadal versus Djokovic should be long, but remember that at one stage Nadal was ‑‑ Djokovic was two sets down, so it could have been much quicker.

At one stage we felt we were close to the end, and then there was a turn around that we all know about.

So it wouldn’t be fair.  I think that if you said that scheduling the final at 3:00 in Roland Garros is unreasonable, even though there are many chances you will have Nadal and Djokovic.  I don’t think it’s unreasonable.

Now you can think what you like, but I really don’t think it’s unreasonable to do that kind of scheduling.

 

Q.  You were clear about Djokovic wanted to continue playing, but when Rafa said the balls were very wet, does it mean he wanted to stop earlier or that he was happy?

GILBERT YSERN:  Stefan never said Djokovic wanted to continue playing.  Djokovic said the court was slippery.  Doesn’t mean he wanted to continue.

 

Q.  But what about Rafa’s attitude with regards to the balls?  What did he say?

GILBERT YSERN:  (In English.)  He was just saying when I spoke to him that the balls were getting wet, and because of that, they get a bit heavier and they get a bit bigger.

 

Q.  (In English.)  Not in relation to stopping or continuing?

GILBERT YSERN:  (In English.)  No, he was just saying that during the match, and especially during the end of the match.

 

Q.  (In French.)  I’d like to ask a question about logistics now.  For instance, shall we be able to go to the same carparks?  Will the pressroom be open all day?  What about the catering services?

GILBERT YSERN:  My only answer is yes, of course.  All services provided at the tournament will be available.  Tomorrow is going to be the 16th day of the tournament, and no service will be terminated.

Everything will be available as it has been available since the beginning of this tournament.

 

Q.  (In French.)  Sorry, I still don’t understand exactly what happened with the players.  (In English.)  Djokovic was saying it was slippery; Nadal says the balls were wet and heavy.  They said or not we want to stop because I don’t like the ball heavy or…

STEFAN FRANSSON:  (In English.)  No.  When I went on court to stop the match when we did stop the match, I spoke to Rafa and I spoke to Novak on the court.  When I told them that I think we should stop the match, that’s when Novak said that the court was slippery.

As you know, Rafa also said that the court was not in the best condition.  Is that clear enough?

 

Q.  You understood that to mean they both wanted to come off?

STEFAN FRANSSON:  That’s not that their decision.  At the end of the day, if they both want to come off or one wants to come off, that’s not their decision.

GILBERT YSERN:  When the referee walks on court, he walks on court to inform the player of decision he is making, and then the players make comment.

STEFAN FRANSSON:  But it’s not like I go on and say, Do you want to stay?  Do you want to go?  It’s not like a conference call.  (Laughter.)

Q.        They didn’t express no opinion before?

STEFAN FRANSSON:  No, Rafa said to the chair umpire in the changeover before, he asked the chair umpire, and the chair umpire said to him that the conditions are the same as it was previously in that set, and that was the only thing before.

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