A cacophony of noise on Court Philippe Chatrier signaled the belated appearance of women’s third seed Victoria Azarenka as the Belarusian eased to the second round.
The stadium was barely one-third full as Azarenka went through her paces, but the low decibel level from the crowd on another chilly day in Paris was countered by the grunts, howls and groans coming from the two players.
Azarenka just about won the noise battle, although Russian Elena Vesnina ran her close and she had little trouble winning the match either, going through 6-1 6-4.
Incredibly making her eighth main draw appearance at the French Open despite still being only 23, Azarenka had to wait until the fourth day to begin her challenge after rainy weather on Tuesday meant her first-round match was canceled.
She now faces the prospect of seven matches in 11 days if she is to win the title.
The twice Australian Open champion has never shone in Paris, with her best performance being quarter-finals in 2009 and 2011.
“It was great to start and there some tough points, especially for a first round match,” Azarenka, who was briefly troubled in the second set, said on court before declaring her love for Paris.
She will face Germany’s Annika Beck in the second round.
In the men’s singles, Taiwan’s top-ranked tennis player Lu Yen-hsun overcame a long record of futility on the Paris clay and a balky ankle to capture his first career win at the French Open on Tuesday.
Lu got the victory when his opponent, Simone Bolelli of Italy, retired with an injury with Lu leading 6-4, 6-4, 2-1 in the first-round match. Lu gained the upper hand in the first set when he broke Bolelli’s serve at 3-all, but he sprained his ankle at 5-3, putting the set — and the match — in jeopardy.
The Italian closed to within 5-4 after Lu took a medical timeout, but the Taiwanese veteran recovered to serve out the set and used the injury to motivate himself.
“Twisting my ankle actually gave me more of a will to fight,” Lu said after the match.
The world No. 76 dominated the second set, losing only three points in five service games and creating five break points, one of which he converted. Bolelli, currently ranked 88th in the world, pulled out after Lu broke his serve in the third game of the final set, giving the 29-year-old his first victory in six trips to Roland Garros.
Until his five-set marathon defeat to Jeremy Chardy last year, he had never even won a set in the only Grand Slam event played on clay. Lu credited his win to a serve that got progressively better during the match and his strategy to attack Bolelli’s serve and create chances to win points quickly.
However, the victory was tempered by the news that Lu received after having had the ankle scanned. According to his official Web site, the scan found a small crack in a bone that could keep him out of action for four weeks. Further tests are expected to be done and if it is determined that the injury is not as serious as first thought and Lu can continue at Roland Garros, he will play 16th seed Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany in the second round.
Yesterday it was Lu’s turn to retire as Spanish duo Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez defeated the Taiwanese player and his partner, Jaroslav Levinsky of the Czech Republic 4-2.
Fellow Taiwanese Chang Kai-chen also had a bad day in the women’s doubles as she and Shuko Aoyama of Japan lost 1-6, 1-6 to Kazakhstan’s Yaroslava Shvedova and Japan’s Misaki Doi.
Because of the wet weather, there was not much tennis to see on Tuesday — only two of the four matches originally scheduled in the main stadium actually began, so for Novak Djokovic, much of the afternoon was spent wondering when he would wind up taking the court for what turned out to be a 7-6 (7/5), 6-4, 7-5 victory over David Goffin in the first round of the only Grand Slam tournament the Serb has yet to win.
“I really wanted to finish tonight [Tuesday], although I know the crowd wanted to watch a little longer,” Djokovic said after wrapping up his match shortly before 9pm.
“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 over any court, but unlike the US Open, at least there is a definitive timeline to build one.
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 on 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 6:30pm, even though theirs was the second match of the day. They finished as light was fading.
Australian Bernard Tomic — whose father was barred from Roland Garros after being accused this month of head-butting Tomic’s hitting partner — stopped because of a torn right hamstring while trailing Victor Hanescu 7-5, 7-6 (8), 2-1. Three other men retired during matches: No. 28 Florian Mayer (right thigh), Alejandro Falla (stomach problems) and Bolelli (right wrist).
No. 9 Stanislas Wawrinka, No. 12 Tommy Haas and No. 16 Philipp Kohlschreiber and No. 26 Grigor Dimitrov advanced, along with 20-year-old American Jack Sock in his French Open debut.
If Dimitrov — he and Maria Sharapova are an item, so he was asked about dealing with paparazzi — reaches the third round, he could face Djokovic. That would be an intriguing matchup, given that Dimitrov defeated Djokovic on clay at Madrid three weeks ago.
“This is the kind of matches I’d always want to play in,” Dimitrov said. “I feel good on the big courts and playing against good players.”
Yesterday was a sad day for Britain as Heather Watson slid out of the French Open on Wednesday in losing her opening-round match against Stefanie Voegele.
Switzerland’s Voegele won 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 to send Watson crashing out at the opening hurdle and at the same time end British hopes, male or female, in this year’s tournament given Andy Murray’s absence from the men’s event.
After trading opening serves, Watson then let slip three straight games and was thereafter chasing the encounter and although she rallied and broke back she succumbed to lose the opening set in 38 minutes.
The Guernsey-born Briton bagged an early break in the second, then conceded, but racked up a four-game streak to level the contest.
However, a dropped serve at the start of the decider had the world No. 50 back on the rack in her first match since the 21-year-old was diagnosed with glandular fever last month.
Rain earlier in the week ensured she had an extra 24 hours to prepare for the task in hand, but she came up just short.
“I’m really disappointed,” Watson said.
Asked if it did not comprise gamesmanship, Watson refused to criticize her rival for taking a bathroom break after the second set.
“Girls do it all the time. It’s just the norm. Maybe she did need to go, but I should have been focused and ready for whatever,” Watson said.
This year marks the first time in six years that no British player has reached the second round in Paris.
However, it was a good day for France as Jo-Wilfried Tsonga survived a first-set scare to advance into the third round with a 7-6 (8/6), 6-4, 6-3 win against Finn Jarkko Nieminen.
The sixth-seeded Tsonga, the last French man to reach a Grand Slam final at the 2008 Australian Open final, next faces either French 25th seed Jeremy Chardy or Spain’s Robert Bautista Agut.
Tsonga saved a set point in the first-set tiebreak, but then turned up the power and never looked back on a chilly Court Philippe Chatrier.
He ended the contest on his first match point with a backhand passing shot after less than two hours.
“I was opportunistic, I made the most of my chances,” Tsonga said.
Later in the day, Gael Monfils, who eliminated Czech fifth seed Tomas Berdych in the first round, was to take on Latvia’s Ernests Gulbis.
Agnieszka Radwanska’s hopes of playing little sister Urszula for a place in the last 16 were dashed.
Australian teen Ashleigh Barty, at 17 the second-youngest player in the draw behind 16-year-old Croatian Donna Vekic, reached the second round with an impressive 7-5, 2-6, 6-1 win over Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Republic.
The teen from Ipswich, Queensland, secured her maiden Grand Slam main draw success with a win in 1 hour, 54 minutes, moving on to a meeting with Russian 12th seed Maria Kirilenko.
All that was missing were her parents, but they were soon on the telephone.
“Mum and Dad are back home, my phone’s been going a bit crazy, but I haven’t had time to look at it yet,” Barty said.