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‘Sitting like ducks’: Stars blow up over French Open conditions

US Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka has walked off the court mid-match and blasted the conditions at Roland Garros as “ridiculous” after being forced to sit “like ducks” on a rainswept opening day.That wasn’t the only drama, with the balls being used at this year’s rescheduled tournament slammed as not good enough to “give to a…

US Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka has walked off the court mid-match and blasted the conditions at Roland Garros as “ridiculous” after being forced to sit “like ducks” on a rainswept opening day.

That wasn’t the only drama, with the balls being used at this year’s rescheduled tournament slammed as not good enough to “give to a dog to chew.”

Former world No.1 Azarenka won her first-round match against Danka Kovinic in straight sets but when play was stopped after just 15 minutes on Court Suzanne Lenglen amid gusting winds and temperatures of around 10 degrees, the Belarusian was less than impressed.

“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,” Azarenka said, refusing to wait while the supervisor came to inspect conditions.

“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.”

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Azarenka checked with Kovinic, who also didn’t want to wait, then continued.

“No, it’s completely ridiculous. It’s too cold, what’s the point? Sitting here like ducks,” she said.

“You guys are joking right? You don’t see what’s happening? You guys are not playing, so you have no idea.

“It’s raining for like 15 minutes and we’re playing, who cares? You can’t hold your racquet because it’s so wet.”

Azarenka packed her racquets in her bag, put on a pink puffer jacket and walked off the court before returning after an extended break.

She completed the match, which she won 6-1 6-2, wearing a jacket and leggings.

The No.10 seed will play Anna Karolina Schmiedlova in the second round after the Slovakian upset Venus Williams in straight sets, 6-4 6-4.

“I am glad to get it finished so I can watch the others struggle in this weather and rain,” Azarenka said.

The French Open usually runs early in the Paris summer but had to be rescheduled from its end of May timeslot due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

12-time champion Rafael Nadal said the new Autumn time will bring challenges to players, and Azarenka is worried it will include injuries.

“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,” 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.”

But Azarenka backed the tournament’s decision to stage the grand slam now, rather than cancelling it altogether as Wimbeldon did in June.

“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,” she said.

“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.”

Meanwhile, Britain’s Dan Evans slammed the new balls being used at the tournament this year after his five-set loss to Kei Nishikori.

“Some of those balls we were using you wouldn’t give to a dog to chew,” he 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.”

Coming off his best grand slam result at the US Open, Australian Alex de Minaur suffered a shock first-round loss on the opening day, losing to Italian Marco Cecchinato 7-6 6-4 6-0.

“I myself don’t feel comfortable on court. I’m not happy with where my level’s at. It’s bizarre because I’m basically coming off my career best in a Grand Slam,” De Minaur said post-match.

Daria Gavrilova fared better, moving into the second round with an upset win over No.24 seed Dayana Yastremska, 6-4 6-3. She will play Eugenie Bouchard next.

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