French Open 2020: Scarves, winter coats all around on Day 1 as 'ridiculous' cold sparks player revolt

The French Open, which was pushed back from its traditional May-June slot due to the coronavirus, began in steady drizzle and temperatures struggling to reach 10 degrees (50F).

Agence France-Presse September 28, 2020 15:57:59 IST
French Open 2020: Scarves, winter coats all around on Day 1 as 'ridiculous' cold sparks player revolt

Victoria Azarenka, native of Florida, wasn't pleased to be playing in 8 degrees celsius at start of French Open on Sunday. AP

Paris: Roland Garros got underway in the "ridiculous" chill and damp of Paris on Sunday with Victoria Azarenka walking off court, complaining that it was "too cold" to play, before Stan Wawrinka brushed aside fellow three-time major winner Andy Murray in the day's marquee clash.

The French Open, which was pushed back from its traditional May-June slot due to the coronavirus , began in steady drizzle and temperatures struggling to reach 10 degrees (50F).

It was all too much for Azarenka, 31, who left the almost deserted Court Suzanne Lenglen after just three games.

"I don't see the point of sitting on the court when it's eight degrees," fumed two-time major winner Azarenka.

On court she complained: "We are sitting like ducks. It's too cold, it's eight degrees, I live in Florida. This is getting a little ridiculous. I'm not waiting," she said before storming off to seek shelter.

She returned to complete a 6-1, 6-2 win, playing in black leggings and a tracksuit top.

"Does it increase the risk of players getting injured? Absolutely, I think that it does," she added ahead of a week in which the cold, wet conditions are forecast to continue.

That echoed fears expressed by 12-time champion Rafael Nadal who said the conditions combined with a new heavier ball could cause elbow and shoulder problems for players.

On Court Simonne Mathieu, Belgian 16th seed Elise Mertens and Russia's Margarita Gasparyan twice left the arena after also halting play due to the slippery conditions.

'Perfect birthday'

Top seed and 2018 champion Simona Halep swept into the second round with a 6-4, 6-0 victory over Spanish world number 70 Sara Sorribes Tormo.

Playing under the roof, second-ranked Halep trailed 4-2 but claimed the final 10 games to progress in 82 minutes.

"The perfect present was that I won today," said Halep who was celebrating her 29th birthday.

Wintry weather, expected to last all week, was the last thing organisers needed after playing cat and mouse with the impact of COVID-19 .

A resurgence of cases has cut attendance to just 1,000 spectators a day. In 2019, more than 500,000 people watched the two-week tournament on site.

Those few who were on site on Sunday wore scarves, winter coats as well as the mandatory masks. Normally bustling shops, food outlets and other commercial stalls are shuttered.

Nadal, bidding to win a 13th Roland Garros and move level with the absent Roger Federer on a record 20 majors, plays Monday against Egor Gerasimov, the 83rd-ranked Belarusian.

World number one Novak Djokovic, chasing an 18th major, will get underway on Tuesday boasting a record in 2020 of 31 wins and just one loss due to his US Open default. The 33-year-old Serb faces Sweden's Mikael Ymer.

Three-time champion Serena Williams, pursuing an elusive 24th major, starts Monday against fellow American Kristie Ahn.

Updated Date:

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