French Open: Victoria Azarenka unhappy with conditions at Roland Garros
"It's eight degrees, I live in Florida, I'm used to hot weather"
Last Updated: 27/09/20 2:30pm
Victoria Azarenka won her first-round match against Danka Kovinic at the French Open after initially refusing to play because of the chilly autumnal conditions in Paris.
The tournament got off to an inauspicious start with US Open runner-up Azarenka unhappy at having to play on a deserted Court Suzanne Lenglen.
Rain was in the air and the wind whipping up the clay as Azarenka began her contest with Montenegrin Kovinic wearing a jacket.
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After three games, which all went with serve, a chilly Azarenka sat down on her chair and told supervisor Clare Wood
in no uncertain terms that she was not prepared to wait on court to see if conditions improved.
She was asked to wait on court to see if conditions improved but refused, saying: "You guys are joking. What are we doing here? I'm down to play whatever, you know I'm not complaining, but this is getting a little bit ridiculous. I'm not sitting here because I'm going to get frozen.
"It's eight degrees. I live in Florida. I'm used to hot weather."
Speaking to her opponent from Montenegro, Azarenka said: "Do you want to wait on court?
"No," Kovinic replied.
"No, it's ridiculous, it's too cold. What's the point? Sitting here like ducks," said Azarenka, who put on a bright pink puffer jacket and walked off court.
The players returned around 45 minutes later when the rain eased off and Azarenka lost just two more games in a 6-1 6-2 victory.
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Speaking on court, the US Open finalist said: "I'm glad that I'm able to finish and now I can watch everybody struggle with this weather. I'm happy for quite a strong start. It wasn't easy but I felt I was pretty focused."
Azarenka: “Today I felt that I moved actually really well. I was very fluid, I was very fluid with my movement. I was able it slide everywhere. So I guess when I focus on what I need to do better, these things kind of come automatically.” #RG20 pic.twitter.com/pFmVmrm6eo— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) September 27, 2020
Asked whether the tournament should have been cancelled altogether, Azarenka said it was important for lower-ranked players.
"I wouldn't particularly say so because I do believe that I want to play," she said. "We all want to compete and we want to play and for maybe not a player like me that maybe financially is more stable than other players are, it's very important to have this opportunity during the pandemic.
"I think that there should have been a little bit more consulting and heads up and conversation. I think that's where we can improve, for sure."
Meanwhile, Elise Mertens was also unhappy with the conditions for her clash with Margarita Gasparyan on Court Simonne Mathieu.
The players refused to start at the appointed time and then walked off again in the third game because of slippery conditions before Mertens eventually won 6-2 6-3.
Rain is forecast at Roland Garros for the next 10 days.
The tournament is being held amid a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in France with players and guests being submitted to a mandatory coronavirus test before being sent to two hotels, which they can only leave to play at Roland Garros or train in the neighbouring Jean Bouin stadium.