Tennis broadcasting legend Mary Carillo has no regrets about not being in Paris for the French Open, which begins Sunday.
From what she’s hearing out of Roland Garros, French organizers have not stepped up their game in following the US Open’s impeccable safety protocols.
Carillo and broadcast partner John McEnroe will call the French Open for NBC from the states for safety reasons.
Carillo will call the shots with Dan Hicks in a Stamford, Conn. studio, while McEnroe will do the matches from his Malibu, Calif. home.
With a recent COVID-19 spike, the French Open announced this week the fan limit was being reduced from 11,500 to 5,000. It’s too much for Carillo, who thought the USTA did brilliantly in staging a fan-less Grand Slam that ended two weeks ago in Flushing.
“I’m not that crazy going to Paris right now,’’ Carillo told The Post. “Europe seems to be spiking, including there. That the French Open is allowing 5,000 fans a day is concerning. It’s not ideal. Quarantining and protocols seem a little shabby to me. It was much tighter at the US Open.’’
Carillo has heard the player hotels haven’t been under the same bubble restrictions as in Long Island. Six players in the French Open qualifiers reportedly have already tested positive.
“It makes me a little jumpy,’’ Carillo said. “This is the second major being played. You’d think they already have the playbook for how it should be done. It should be tighter, not looser. The hotels, we’re getting reports from French Open qualifiers the hotels aren’t secured.
“There’s also continuing construction at Roland Garros. So much construction the qualifiers this week they are all are operating out of one small café. There’s no social distancing. You can’t do it.’’
Carillo said she’s learned of a player not getting tested upon arrival. In another case, she’s been told anecdotes of players picking up their credentials before their test results returned.
“That didn’t happen at the US Open,’’ Carillo said.
At the Open, the only player to test positive was Frenchman Benoit Paire – days before the start.
The drawback, Carillo admits, is she may not cull the same gossipy nuggets as if she was there.
“I like being on site,’’ said Carillo, who was in Flushing calling matches for the world feed. “I like going to the practices, meeting the coaches. I hang around. I love Paris, but I’m a nerd. All I do for two weeks is be at Roland Garros. I want to see what’s going on.”
With the Open still fresh, Carillo is excited about the storylines, particularly the journeys of Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams.
After getting controversially booted from the Open in the fourth round, Djokovic won the Italian Open, the Rome claycourt tuneup, while 12-time champion Rafael Nadal got knocked out early.
Djokovic’s record for 2020 is 31-1 – the lone blemish a shocking disqualification in Flushing for accidentally flicking a ball into a lineswoman’s throat. Now he goes for the jugular in trying to stop Nadal’s French domination. Nadal skipped the US Open.
“The hardest part for Novak is carrying around the US Open default stuff,’’ Carillo said. “He didn’t play great (in Rome) but he competed well. My hope is he doesn’t have to keep answering questions about it in Paris. He was very patient and faced a lot of dumb questions in Rome. He had to keep being contrite.’’
Djokovic didn’t dispute the decision, but admitted “for a couple of days I was in shock, and I was shaken’’ and confessed he “cannot promise or guarantee that I will never ever do anything similar to that in my life.”
The Flushing ouster could set a fresher Djokovic up to knock off the Spaniard, as he will benefit from faster courts than Rome. “He’s pretty well positioned,’’ Carillo said. “Rafa lost pretty early in Rome. All Rafa wants is reps on clay. He didn’t get that. He might be a little undercooked. I still consider Rafa the favorite but right behind him is Novak.”
Carillo believes it’s a three-man battle between Nadal, Djokvic and US Open champion, Dominic Thiem, who beat the Serbian at the French in 2019.
With Open champion Naomi Osaka withdrawing, Carillo also sees the women’s draw as a 3-person battle between Simona Halep, who skipped Flushing, surging Victoria Azarenka, the Open finalist, and claycourt specialist Garbine Muguruza. But Carillo won’t rule out Serena as she still strives for a record-tying 24th Grand Slam despite not having a clayycourt tuneup going in.
“Serena has won it more than anyone here (3 times) so she still should be considered a favorite,’’ Carillo said.
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