The French Open gets under way at leafy Roland Garros on Sunday with security ramped up in the aftermath of the November terror attacks in Paris and a low-key fare on the playing schedule.
Also it would be interesting to see if Novak Djokovic (chasing an elusive first title at the French) and Serena Williams (looking to equal Steffi Graf’s modern-day record of 22 Grand Slam singles titles) do create history this time around.
But then the first challenge for organisers is to keep daily crowds of approximately 30,000 fans safe and sound, a task which was fairly straight forward until last year, before another of the city’s showpiece sports venues, the Stade de France, was targeted by suicide bombers.
“Security is at the heart of our priorities and it will be reinforced,” said Guy Forget, former player and Davis Cup winner who was appointed as tournament director only in February.
“There will be a double security perimeter with only three entry points. We cannot afford to take the slightest risk,” he added.
Metal detectors and sniffer dogs will patrol the gates while there would be pat-downs and bag searches.
The authorities have been plagued with security breaches in recent years, although all harmless in the context of the current era.
In 2015, a young fan jumped over the advertising hoardings of the Court Philippe Chatrier, in an effort to grab a selfie with Roger Federer, who was momentarily startled before burly security guards ushered the boy away.
Also, Federer was targeted by a fan who previously sprinted onto the same court and attempted to place a hat on his head.
It may be remembered that in 2013, the final between Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer was interrupted by flare-carrying demonstrators protesting against the country’s gay marriage laws.
But then Forget insists that the players are happy with the security.
“They are relatively confident. We have reassured them that the arrangements will be even more important this year,” he said.
Even Djokovic said he has no worries over the tightened security.
“Personally I never had an issue with security in this tournament. I’m aware of what happened several months ago in Paris and where the world is at this moment, of course we need to tighten up the security. I have nothing against it. You know, better safe than sorry,” said the Serb.
Once inside the complex, fans will be aware that a radical facelift is under way with three courts — including the bear-pit of Court Seven — demolished as part of a radical reboot.
At the moment, Roland Garros is squeezed into 8.6 hectares while the All England Club which hosts Wimbledon boasts a roomy 17.7 hectares. Expansion would see the complex in Paris grow up to 12.8 hectares.