PARIS • Former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka believes the biting cold and steady rain at Roland Garros could cause serious injury after being forced to “sit like a duck” in weather conditions she blasted as “ridiculous” in her French Open first-round tie.
The 31-year-old eased past Danka Kovinic, the world No. 74 from Montenegro, 6-1, 6-2 at an almost crowd-free Court Suzanne Lenglen as coronavirus restrictions resulted in a daily limit of just 1,000 fans.
The US Open runner-up had been unhappy when rain fell steadily in the first set yesterday, adding to the misery of playing in 10 deg C.
“This is getting a little ridiculous. It’s eight degrees. I’m not waiting,” said Azarenka, refusing to hang around courtside “sitting like ducks” as the supervisor came out to inspect conditions. “It’s too cold. I live in Florida, I’m used to hot weather.”
After just 15 minutes, play was suspended. But the Belarusian regained her composure when the match resumed even if she did complete it wearing black leggings and a tracksuit top. The 10th seed will next face Anna Karolina Schmiedlova after the Slovakian defeated American Venus Williams 6-4, 6-4.
“I am glad to get it finished so I can watch the others struggle in this weather and rain,” she said.
Later, she told reporters that she agreed with 12-time champion Rafael Nadal’s belief that the chilly conditions of playing in the autumn, rather than the traditional May-June slot, as well as the heavier balls, brought fresh challenges.
“Does it increase the risk of players getting injured? Absolutely, I think that it does. But what’s going to happen, I don’t know,” she said. “I think after the tournament there should be some real good feedback and explanations and conversations with players, that’s for a fact.”
Despite her frustrations, she admitted it was the right decision to go ahead with the tournament as many players have been financially hit by the pandemic.
Top seed and 2018 champion Simona Halep had no complaints after cruising into the second round with a 6-4, 6-0 victory over Spanish world No. 70 Sara Sorribes Tormo.
She claimed the final 10 games to ensure a happy 29th birthday.
It was also a day to remember for Italian teenager Jannik Sinner, who upset Belgian 11th seed David Goffin 7-5, 6-0, 6-3. The 19-year-old, making his Roland Garros bow, was the first player to win under the new retractable roof on centre court.