French Open organisers said it was unthinkable for them to cancel the 2020 edition of the clay-court Grand Slam after they received a barrage of criticism for rescheduling the event in the middle of the hard-court season because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“For us it was unthinkable (to cancel), the only thing we had in mind was the interest of the tournament and of the players,” French tennis federation president Bernard Giudicelli told reporters.

The tournament, which was due to be held from May 24-June 7, will now be staged from Sept 20-Oct 4, meaning it will start one week after the US Open and clash with many other hard-court tournaments usually staged during that time.

“We had exchanges with the ATP, the WTA, the ITF and we informed the other Grand Slam organisers,” said Giudicelli.

Asked what the US Open organisers’ reaction was, Giudicelli said he could not tell because he did not place the call himself.

However, he defended the FFT’s choice by saying the hefty prize money would help players in need after weeks out of competitive tennis.

The men’s ATP Tour had previously announced a six-week suspension due to the pandemic that has ground global sport to a halt while the WTA, which runs the women’s tournaments, had postponed events till May 2.

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has also suspended all its events, including next month’s newly-launched Fed Cup finals in Budapest.

“I don’t think it’s the date that’s a problem, I think the problem is the calendar,” said Giudicelli. “Cancelling would have meant a considerable absence of revenues for the players who have already been hit by a succession of cancellations.”

The prize money for the 2019 edition of Roland Garros, which has undergone a major revamp of the grounds including the installation of a retractable roof on the main Philippe Chatrier court, was €42.66 million (S$67 million).

The FFT general director Jean-Francois Vilotte said the French Open was not a commercial entity, saying all the revenues were invested into developing the tournament and tennis in France.