TENNIS: World's former No. 1 player advances in opening match at French Open
PARIS — Victoria Azarenka waited until the fourth day of the French Open for her opening match, then showed she’s eager to continue.
Filling a mostly empty stadium court with her familiar shrieks, the world’s former No. 1 player beat Elena Vesnina of Russia 6-1, 6-4 today in a match postponed one day because of rain. That meant Azarenka reached the second round 72 hours after some players.
The Australian Open champion in each of the past two years, the No. 3-seeded Azarenka is hoping for a breakthrough at Roland Garros, the only major where she has yet to reach a semifinal.
American Mallory Burdette was eliminated in the second round by No. 4-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska 6-3, 6-2. Burdette committed 28 unforced errors to five for Radwanska, last year’s Wimbledon runner-up.
In other first-round matches, No. 7 Petra Kvitova outlasted wild card Aravane Rezai of France, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2, and No. 12 Maria Kirilenko beat fellow Russian Nina Bratchikova 6-0, 6-1. No. 23 Klara Zakopalova lost to Kaia Kanepi 7-6 (3), 6-2.
In men’s second-round play, No. 4 David Ferrer broke serve eight times and beat fellow Spaniard Albert Montanes 6-2, 6-1, 6-3. No. 10 Marin Cilic defeated 18-year-old Australian Nick Kyrgios 6-4, 6-2, 6-2.
Azarenka wore down Vesnina with her noisy but steady baseline game, committing only 13 unforced errors. Vesnina, ranked 38th, fell to 1-19 against top-five players and has yet to take a set in five matches against Azarenka.
Azarenka needed only half an hour to win the first set, fell behind in the second, then finished with several booming strokes and a fist pump. Speaking to the crowd afterward, she tried to match rival Serena Williams’ feat of speaking French but stumbled.
“I know ‘Je t’aime, Paris,’ and I know ‘Allez,’” she said with a laugh. “Merci beaucoup.”
Because of wet weather, there was not much tennis to see Tuesday. Only two of the four matches originally scheduled in the main stadium actually began.
Top-ranked Novak Djokovic spent much of the afternoon wondering when he would wind up taking the court for what turned out to be a 7-6 (5), 6-4, 7-5 victory over David Goffin in the first round of the only Grand Slam tournament the Serb has yet to win.
“It was a difficult day, because we have been waiting for hours and hours. I think I warmed up five or six times today,” Djokovic said. “In these conditions ... you need to adjust your game and tactics, because it’s quite different than comparing to the conditions when it’s dry and sunny.”
Unlike Wimbledon and the Australian Open, Roland Garros does not have a roof at any court.
Unlike the U.S. Open, though, at least there is a definitive timeline to build one.
French Open officials said last weekend they would proceed with plans to put a retractable roof over center court despite a judicial ruling in March that put the project on hold. The roof would be completed in 2018 as part of a $440 million renovation.
Last year’s final between champion Rafael Nadal and runner-up Djokovic was halted in the fourth set Sunday because of rain, and they resumed Monday, the first time since 1973 the French Open didn’t finish on time.
Djokovic was pleased to learn that a cover is coming to the main court in Paris, and he also is eager for them to install artificial lights. Both of those improvements would have contributed to a more stress-free evening Tuesday for the man ranked and seeded No. 1.
He and the 58th-ranked Goffin, a Belgian who was one of the revelations at Roland Garros a year ago, did not begin until after 6:30 p.m., even though theirs was the second match of the day. They finished as light was fading.
“It was,” Djokovic said, “a long day.”