Roland Garros got underway in the “ridiculous” chill and damp of Paris on Sunday with former world No 1 Victoria Azarenka walking off court, complaining that it was “too cold” to play while top seed Simona Halep celebrated her birthday with an easy win.

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 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.

She will face Anna Karolina Schmiedlova who beat Venus Williams 6-4, 6-4 , marking th American’s third successive first round exit at the French Open.

The 40-year-old Williams, runner-up at Roland Garros to sister Serena in 2002, was beaten by an opponent who snapped a 12-match Grand Slam losing streak.

This is also her third first round defeat in a row at a Slam after exiting the US Open and Australian Open at the same stage. The seven-time Grand Slam champion has not been past the third round at a Major since 2017. She has lost eight of nine matches on tour this year.

Williams dropped serve six times in cold, blustery conditions in Paris as Schmiedlova registered her first main draw victory at a Slam since the 2015 US Open.

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. But Mertens won in straight sets 6-2, 6-3.

There were no such problems, however, for top seed and former champion Simona Halep who swept into the second round with a 6-4, 6-0 victory over Spanish world number 70 Sara Sorribes Tormo.

Playing under the new roof of Court Philippe Chatrier, second-ranked Halep, who won the 2018 title, trailed 4-2 but claimed the final 10 games to progress in 82 minutes.

The Romanian will meet compatriot Irina-Camelia Begu or Switzerland’s Jil Teichmann for a place in the third round.

Ninth seed and 2019 semi-finalist Johanna Konta was knocked out by teenage sensation Coco Gauff, becoming the biggest casualty on the first day.

The 16-year-old American, making her debut in the main draw having been the junior champion just two years ago, eased to a 6-3, 6-3 win despite serving up 12 double faults.

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.

Organisers had hoped to welcome 20,000 fans a day but in the space of just a few weeks, that figure was quickly downsized to 11,500, then 5,000 before the French government slashed it to a 1,000 maximum.


Simona Halep (ROM x1) bt Sara Sorribes Tormo (ESP) 6-4, 6-0

Irina-Camelia Begu (ROM) bt Jil Teichmann (SUI) 6-4, 4-6, 6-3

Coco Gauff (USA) bt Johanna Konta (GBR x9) 6-3, 6-3

Martina Trevisan (ITA) bt Camila Giorgi (ITA) 7-5, 3-0 - retired

Kamilla Rakhimova (RUS) bt Shelby Rogers (USA) 6-2, 6-3

Maria Sakkari (GRE x20) bt Ajla Tomljanovic (AUS) 6-0, 7-5

Astra Sharma (AUS) bt Anna Blinkova (RUS) 6-3, 2-6, 7-5

Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS x27) bt Maddison Inglis (AUS) 6-3, 6-3

Caroline Garcia (FRA) bt Anett Kontaveit (EST x17) 6-4, 3-6, 6-4

Aliaksandra Sasnovich (BLR) bt Anna-Lena Friedsam (GER) 6-2, 2-6, 6-3

Kaia Kanepi (EST) bt Marie Bouzkova (CZE) 4-6, 6-4, 6-2

Elise Mertens (BEL x16) bt Margarita Gasparyan (RUS) 6-2, 6-3

Victoria Azarenka (BLR x10) bt Danka Kovinic (MNE) 6-1, 6-2

Anna Karolina Schmiedlova (SVK) bt Venus Williams (USA) 6-4, 6-4

Nadia Podoroska (ARG) bt Greet Minnen (BEL) 6-2, 6-1

Yulia Putintseva (KAZ x23) bt Kirsten Flipkens (BEL) 6-1, 6-2

Barbora Strycova (CZE x32) bt Varvara Lepchenko (USA) 7-5, 6-5