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Raonic concerned about French Open crowds amid COVID-19 surge

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The prospect of playing the French Open in a month’s time with thousands of fans in attendance is a worry for Milos Raonic amid a recent surge in COVID-19 infections in France.

Sep 1, 2020; Flushing Meadows, New York, USA; Milos Raonic of Canada serves the ball against Leonardo Mayer of Argentina on day two of the 2020 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. / Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The former world number three advanced to the U.S. Open second round at a locked-down Flushing Meadows on Tuesday with a clinical 6-3 6-2 6-3 win over Leonardo Mayer.

Raonic said the lack of fans in New York was “weird” and “unfortunate” but the idea of mixing with crowds of them at Roland Garros was also unnerving.

“The only thing that is of some concern to me is that it’s going to be 20,000 fans,” Raonic told reporters when asked about the French Open, which starts Sept. 27.

“I think that’s what I was hearing, that they’ve sold tickets.

“Unless they plan on completely shifting around the organisation of the venue, it’s hard to get to your practices,

get to your matches, without crossing tens if not hundreds of

people on the ground.”

The French tennis federation said in July it planned to allow up to 60% of the usual number of fans. A record 520,000 spectators attended last year’s event, according to organisers.

The French health ministry reported nearly 5,000 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, up from about 3,000 on Monday but below highs of over 7,000 seen last week.

“That to me is the biggest concern, especially seeing with the spikes that are going on throughout France right now,” said Raonic.

“It’s hard to see that sort of getting nullified in four weeks’ time or however long it is before the French Open starts.”

The big-serving Canadian, who has been stopped at the round of 16 four times at Flushing Meadows, plays compatriot Vasek Pospisil next.

“There’s a little bit more tension, a little bit more emotion, that kind of thing,” said Raonic.

“I think we’re also both pretty well equipped to put that aside and really focus on the tennis.”

Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Peter Rutherford

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