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'It looks bad' - ATP board member says tennis fans won't return to arenas until French Open

French Open empty seats coronavirus

The prospect of tennis fans getting back into arenas soon 'looks bad,' says one ATP board member, who believes the French Open is the earliest it will happen.

Tennis was forced to shut down for five months in the middle of last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

When it was able to return, it did so, more often than not, behind closed doors in bio-secure bubbles with fans forced to watch on the TV instead.

That has had a knock-on effect for players, with prize money reduced by up to 80%, prompting Reilly Opelka to say it was a 'big week' if he breaks even at the moment.

However, despite renewed optimism the coronavirus pandemic is nearing its end due to the roll-out of vaccinations, Straka, who is the Vienna tournament director and Dominic Thiem's manager, said caution must still trump optimism at the moment.

“The tournaments want to play, the calendar for the men is relatively secure,” Straka said.

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“We will probably not have spectators again until June until the French Open, it looks bad.”

Wimbledon was cancelled completely last year, although there is genuine hope fans can return in full force when the event resumes this year.

The vaccination programme is accelerating at pace in the UK, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson stating he hopes all social restrictions can be lifted in the country by the end of June.

The French Open, meanwhile, was played in front of drastically reduced crowds last year, and the US Open was completely shut off to spectators.

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