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Roland Garros eyes Sunday start in 2006

PARIS -- French Open organizers will do all
they can to ensure next year's clay-court Grand Slam begins one
day earlier, on a Sunday.

The move would allow them to benefit from higher television
audiences and boost attendances by scheduling an extra weekend
day.

"We are favorable to a Sunday start and we will do whatever
we can so that our tournament will be able to start on a Sunday
next year," French Tennis Federation (FFT) director general Jean
Claude Blanc said on Sunday.

The Australian and French Opens, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open
traditionally start on a Monday and last 14 days.

Wimbledon schedules play for only 13 days, factoring in a
rest day on the middle Sunday.

"We consider it as something positive for tennis," Blanc
said.

"When you see the audience on Monday, the first day of the
tournament, is 1.2 million and goes to two million. If we start
on a Sunday, we will have five million television viewers. This
answers all our questions."

Blanc said discussions would continue at Wimbledon later
this month with the organizers of women's and men's tennis, the
WTA and the ATP.

"I believe instead of having two weeks and two Sundays,
having instead two weeks and three Sundays would be great. We
are not adding a complete weekend," Blanc said.

FFT president Christian Bimes said that while not all the
four Grand Slams were in favor of a Sunday start, they were all
keen to work together on the project.

"The four presidents found an agreement, which is
remarkable," Bimes said.

"At the end of the [Grand Slam] committee [meeting], I said
that Wimbledon, which is not interested in a Sunday start,
wanted to be associated with the other three tournaments in this
operation that we wished, and which is going forward.

"We are finishing our discussions about that with the ATP
and the WTA. These discussions will come to an end during the
summer. The French Open will be the first one starting on a
Sunday in 2006."