French Open 2020: Balls 'not fit for dogs' & 'ridiculous' weather - day one in Paris

Azarenka
Azarenka reached the semi-finals at Roland Garros in 2013
French Open 2020
Dates: 27 September - 11 October Venue: Roland Garros, Paris
Coverage: Selected radio and text commentaries on BBC Radio 5 Live and the BBC Sport website, plus daily reports and analysis

"Ridiculous conditions" and balls not fit for a "dog to chew" were comments organisers had to digest on the opening day of the rescheduled French Open.

The Grand Slam was moved from its traditional May start to September because of the pandemic, and players faced cold and drizzly weather.

Recent US Open finalist Victoria Azarenka left the court during her match, stating it was "too cold".

She added: "Does it [weather] increase the risk of injuries? Absolutely."

The 31-year-old Belarusian, who lost to Naomi Osaka in the Flushing Meadows final a fortnight ago, walked off after a debate with officials over the temperature. She eventually returned to beat Montenegro's Danka Kovinic 6-1 6-2.

Azarenka, who will face Anna Schmiedlova in her next match, said: "I think after the tournament there should be some real good feedback and explanations and conversations with players, that's for a fact."

Meanwhile, British number one Dan Evans echoed the criticism of defending champion Rafael Nadalexternal-link of the new Wilson balls being used at Roland Garros, which have replaced Babolat balls.

Dan Evans
Dan Evans was one of several players who felt the chill on the opening day of the French Open

On the eve of the tournament, the Spanish 12-time champion said it was "not a good ball to play on clay". Following his five-set defeat by Kei Nishikori, Evans was somewhat more colourful with his description.

"Some of those balls we were using you wouldn't give to a dog to chew," the 30-year-old said. "It's brutal. It's so cold. I think the balls are the biggest thing.

"Maybe they got it a little wrong with the balls. It's tough to get that ball to go anywhere. That ball's a bit too heavy, I think."

Many players were wearing leggings underneath their shorts or skirts, a rare sight at this Slam, while the smattering of spectators also wrapped up warm - no more than 1,000 per day are allowed in the Roland Garros grounds during the tournament.

According to BBC Weather, Paris is set for more dreary conditions on Monday, with temperatures improving just a couple of degrees on the 14C experienced on Sunday.

'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.

Rain was in the air and the wind was whipping up the clay on a deserted Court Suzanne Lenglen as former world number one Azarenka 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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