Gone are the queues of spectators and gone is the sun as the French Open kicked off in underwhelming fashion on Sunday with persistent drizzle and a chill wind sweeping the almost-empty Roland Garros grounds.
Play started at 11am local time on court Philippe Chatrier under the new retractable roof, with Belgian David Goffin playing Italian Jannik Sinner in front of a few dozen spectators.
Italy’s Jannik Skinner confirmed his status as one of the most exciting talents in men’s tennis with a win over 11th seed David Goffin.Credit:Getty Images
The Italian teenager stunned the Belgian 11th seed 7-5 6-0 6-3 in his first match at Roland Garros, firing 23 winners while Goffin made 43 unforced errors.
Sinner, 19, has reached the second round of a Grand Slam only once before, at this year's Australian Open.
Matches were suspended on the other two main courts – Suzanne Lenglen and Simonne Mathieu – after 15 minutes, with former world number one Victoria Azarenka fuming about the conditions.
"It's ridiculous, it's too cold," she said as her first-round match against Montenegro's Danka Kovinic was interrupted.
Victoria Azarenka of Belarus speaks with a match official during a rain break in her Women’s Singles first round match.Credit:Getty Images
Azarenka walked on court wearing a pink puffer jacket under grey skies with only a couple of dozen spectators brave enough to sit in the windswept stands.
She resumed playing after a 45-minute interruption, wearing tights and a wind jacket.
Azarenka was all smiles, however, after an emphatic 6-1 6-2 victory over Montenegro's Danka Kovinic in which only nine spectators witnessed the final point.
"I'm happy I managed to finish early now I can watch the others play," she said in a coutside interviewer.
Australian Ajla Tomljanovic in action during her loss to Maria Sakkari.Credit:Getty Images
Greek 20th seed Maria Sakkari also braved incessant drizzle to complete a 6-0 7-5 win over Australia's Ajla Tomljanovic.
The claycourt Grand Slam was moved from its usual May-June spot to Sept. 27-Oct. 11 amid the COVID-19 crisis and only 1,000 spectators are allowed on site each day after organisers had initially hoped to welcome 20,000 – about half the normal capacity.
"I don't know what I'm doing here, it's freezing, I'm not sure I'll see a lot of play today apart from those on central court," said Yannick, a 22-year-old student who was among the few people to keep his ticket following a draw after the capacity was cut from 5,000 to 1,000 this week.
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 practise in the neighbouring Jean Bouin stadium.
A pair of fans prepare to shelter under an umbrella as rain falls during day one of the 2020 French Open at Roland Garros.Credit:Getty Images
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