Rafael Nadal, with his 12th French Open trophy. Photo for illustrative purposes. Image Credit: AFP

Paris: The French Open, one of the four Grand Slam tournaments that define success in tennis, will be postponed until September because of the coronavirus.

French Open organisers announced the decision on Tuesday in the midst of a wide lockdown in France aimed at limiting the spread of the virus.

The tournament, the premier clay-court event, was scheduled to be played from May 24 to June 7. Tournament organisers said they have shifted those dates to Sept. 20 to Oct. 4.

"The current confinement measures have made it impossible for us to continue with the dates as originally planned," tournament officials said in a statement.

The shift puts the French Open after the US Open, which had been the last Grand Slam tournament scheduled for 2020.

"We have made a difficult yet brave decision in this unprecedented situation, which has evolved greatly since last weekend," Bernard Giudicelli, the president of the French Tennis Federation, said in a statement. "We are acting responsibly and must work together in the fight to ensure everybody's health and safety."

Concerns about the coronavirus continue to shut down major sporting events and have halted the professional tennis circuit. The men's tour canceled all its events until the end of April. The women's tour canceled all events until the beginning of May, and the French Open's decision casts doubt on whether any clay-court events will be able to be held in May or June.

Although it's unclear when any major sporting events will be able to return, Wimbledon is the next Grand Slam tournament, scheduled from June 29 to July 12. It is followed by the US Open from Aug. 24 to Sept. 13.

If things stay as currently scheduled, the French Open would begin just six days after the US Open men's final, a historically quick turnaround between major tournaments and a particularly challenging one because of the change in surfaces.

The French Open announced that any tickets already purchased would be refunded or be permitted to be exchanged, although it did not offer specifics on how that would take place.