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Azarenka through but slams conditions


Azarenka
Azarenka reached the semi-finals at Roland Garros in 2013
Dates:27 September – 11 OctoberVenue:Roland Garros, Paris
Coverage:Selected radio and text commentaries on BBC Radio 5 Live and the BBC Sport website, plus daily reports and analysis

Victoria Azarenka refused to stay on court in “ridiculous” conditions during her French Open first-round win and said the chilly weather in Paris could lead to more injuries for players.

At 2-1 in the opening set, the 10th seed left the court after a debate with officials, saying it was “too cold”.

The Belarusian, wearing a jacket and leggings, eventually returned to beat Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic 6-1 6-2.

“I’m happy for quite a strong start,” the former world number one said.

“It wasn’t easy but I felt I was pretty focused. I’m glad that I’m able to finish and now I can watch everybody struggle with this weather.”

Azarenka, who was runner-up at this month’s US Open in her first Grand Slam final for seven years, will face Venus Williams or Anna Schmiedlova in her next match.

Speaking afterwards, the 31-year-old added: “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. I don’t really want to think about it.

“I think after the tournament there should be some real good feedback and explanations and conversations with players, that’s for a fact.”

Meanwhile, Romanian top seed Simona Halep celebrated her 29th birthday with a 6-4 6-0 victory over Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo.

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

‘I live in Florida, I am used to hot weather’

Azarenka
Azarenka and Kovinic left the court after three games of the opening set

This year’s French Open was delayed from its usual spot at the end of May because of the coronavirus pandemic and the autumnal setting has brought new challenges.

The weather forecast in Paris on Sunday was for gusty winds and rain and highs of 14C.

Rain was in the air and the wind was whipping up the clay on a deserted Court Suzanne Lenglen as the former world number one began her contest with Kovinic.

After three games, which all went with serve, Azarenka sat down on her chair and asked to see the supervisor. She was asked to wait on court to see if conditions improved but refused.

“I’m not sitting here because I am going to get frozen,” she said. “I’m not waiting here a couple of minutes because I am cold, it’s eight degrees. I live in Florida, I am used to hot weather.

After checking with Kovinic, who also said she did not want to wait, Azarenka added: “No, it’s completely ridiculous. It’s too cold, what’s the point, sitting here like ducks.”

Azarenka swiftly won the opening set after the players returned following a delay of around 45 minutes, and then took the second in 30 minutes to progress to the second round.

Despite her frustrations, Azarenka believes it was the right decision for the French Open to go ahead four months later than planned.

“I think it’s a complicated question, it really is. I don’t know if I’ve ever really played in September in Paris. I’ve been here in October and I knew that it wasn’t the best conditions to play tennis,” she said.

“Do I think it’s better that the tournament is cancelled? I wouldn’t particularly say so because I do believe that I want to play.

“Also I think lower-ranked players and doubles players have been hit pretty hard financially with the situation, so it’s definitely a great opportunity to be able to have the tournament.”

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