Paris Olympic bid leader: Roof at Roland Garros not crucial

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PARIS (AP) While essential for the French Open, a roof over center court at Roland Garros is “not crucial” for Paris’ bid to host the 2024 Olympics, the city’s bid leader said Monday as heavy rain washed out play at the clay-court Grand Slam for the first time in 16 years.

The French Open is the only major tennis tournament without a structure allowing play to go on during rainy days.

After years of delays, the French tennis federation is planning to have one over center court by 2020, but extension works are currently put on hold by legal action from local residents and environmental activists.

Speaking to reporters at Roland Garros, bid co-chairman Bernard Lapasset said “Roland Garros is already a fantastic venue for the Olympics. We can do more, but it’s not crucial.”

Poor weather has been playing havoc with the schedule at the French Open this year but showers are not so frequent in the summer months.

Last week, French Open director Guy Forget said delays in the construction and refurbishment work at Roland Garros could harm Paris’ bid to host the 2024 Olympics.

Environmental groups opposing the extension claim that the construction of a new 5,000-seat court at the Serres d’Auteuil botanical garden will harm the vegetation. The botanical garden’s 19th century greenhouses, a few hundred meters from Court Philippe Chatrier, host a large variety of tropical and local flowers. France’s council of state – the country’s highest administrative authority – is expected to issue a ruling in September.

“It might be easier to do the roof,” Lapasset said. “It’s more complicated for the new court, which won’t be inside (the current facilities of) Roland Garros. It’s important for us that we can propose to IOC members a bid faithful to our environmental values. The zone is protected, and it’s complicated to do something without the agreement of the people (living) around.”

Bid officials are planning to use the venue both for the Olympics and Paralympics, with tennis competitions, wheelchair events in tennis, basketball and rugby as well as five-a-side soccer matches being hosted in the western Paris venue if the city wins the hosting rights.

Paris is competing against Budapest, Rome and Los Angeles for the games. The International Olympic Committee will choose the host city in September 2017. Paris last hosted the Olympics in 1924.

A new media center will also be constructed as part of revamping of the site, the smallest of the four Grand Slam venues. Roland Garros has been hosting the French Open since 1928, welcoming about 400,000 spectators every year at the congested 21-acre (8 1/2-hectare) site.

“Guy Forget is a very good man, in terms of the values he promotes here,” Lapasset said. “But we all need to be pushing in the same direction. The zone is protected and that’s central in the discussions we are having. If we can do something, why not? But it’s complicated if you don’t have the agreement of the people (living) around.”

Top-seeded John Isner wins 3rd Hall of Fame title

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NEWPORT, R.I. — Top-seeded John Isner beat Australian qualifier Matthew Ebden 6-3, 7-6 (4) on Sunday for his third Hall of Fame Open title.

The hard-serving American also won the grass-court event in 2011 and 2012. He has 11th career titles, all at the ATP World Tour 250 level.

“It’s hard to win a tournament,” Isner said. “It’s no small feat to come out here and be the last man standing. I’m very happy about that. It’s been two years since I won a tournament, so I had that weighing on my mind.”

Isner became the second player to win an ATP title without facing a break point since records began in 1991. Tommy Haas also accomplished the feat in Memphis, Tennessee, in 2007.

“I’m very happy with how I played all week,” Isner said. “It was a perfect week and I couldn’t ask for anything better.”

Ebden was playing his first tour-level final.

“It’s a lot of reward for a lot of hard work, a lot of years of sacrifice,” Ebden said. “It’s disappointing, but at the same time I have to be happy with my week.”

Roddick, Clijsters among Tennis Hall of Fame inductees

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NEWPORT, R.I. — Andy Roddick says jokingly he can now keep Roger Federer from a unanimous selection for the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

As a new inductee, Roddick gets to vote on future candidates. He jested ahead of his enshrinement on Saturday that he’ll use it to get back at Federer, who stood in his way during at least four Grand Slam finals.

Roddick joins inductees Kim Clijsters, six-time Paralympic medalist Monique Kalkman and journalist and historian Steve Flink. Tennis instructor and innovator Vic Braden was to be inducted posthumously.

Roddick won one Grand Slam and lost to Federer in the finals four times. He says he doesn’t ask himself what would have happened if he hadn’t come along at the same time of perhaps the greatest player.

He says the first text he got when he woke up Saturday was from Federer. Says Roddick: “He makes it extremely hard not to like him as a person.”