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French Open: Ex-champ Halep in 2nd round, Venus Williams out

Halep won on her 29th birthday, but with minimal celebrations planned for the evening since the coronavirus pandemic means players stay locked inside the security bubble of their hotels. "It was really special day playing on Roland Garros on my birthday," she said.

PTI | Paris | Updated: 27-09-2020 21:52 IST | Created: 27-09-2020 21:45 IST
French Open: Ex-champ Halep in 2nd round, Venus Williams out
Representative image Image Credit: Wikimedia

Top-seeded Simona Halep won 10 straight games in beating Sara Sorribes Tormo 6-4, 6-0 to reach the second round of the French Open on Sunday and extend her winning streak to 15 matches. Halep won on her 29th birthday, but with minimal celebrations planned for the evening since the coronavirus pandemic means players stay locked inside the security bubble of their hotels.

"It was really special day playing on Roland Garros on my birthday," she said. "I cannot celebrate much because I have to stay in the room, so I will have a bottle of water." Wearing thick black leggings and a long-sleeved pink jersey to combat the chilly conditions on Court Philippe Chatrier, the 2018 champion made a series of unforced errors and trailed 4-2. "I felt the cold. I'm not very happy with the cold in general," Halep said. "So it was a little bit tough, I struggled." But then she found her range, clinching the first set with a hold to love and sealing victory on her first match point when her Spanish opponent clipped a forehand wide.

Halep is ranked second but seeded first at Roland Garros because defending champion Ash Barty skipped coming to Paris because of coronavirus concerns. Halep won titles on clay in Prague and Rome and her winning run — interrupted by the pandemic — dates to February. She next faces either countrywoman Irina Camelia Begu or Jil Teichmann of Switzerland.

Halep was not alone in wrapping up warm. Over on Court Suzanne Lenglen, U.S. Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka experienced a vastly different temperature to Flushing Meadows only two weeks ago.

The 10th-seeded Azarenka, who beat Danka Kovinic 6-1, 6-2, fumed when match officials didn't immediately send them back to the locker room during a rain interruption. "I am going to get frozen," she complained. "No. I'm not waiting here a couple of minutes because I'm cold. It's eight degrees, eight degrees, I live in Florida, I am used to hot weather." Before walking off court, Azarenka grumbled "it's ridiculous. It's too cold ... What's the point? Sitting here like ducks." After the match, she said the conditions were risky.

"I think my opponent slipped in the third game, so I think she was also feeling a little bit uncomfortable," Azarenka said. "Does it increase the risk of players getting injured? Absolutely, I think that it does." She next faces Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, who won 6-4, 6-4 against American veteran Venus Williams. "Even on my really good shots she had a lot of amazing replies that just kind of came out of nowhere," Williams said. "Give her credit to playing an amazing match." The 40-year-old Williams exited in the first round at Roland Garros for the third straight year and is 0-3 in Grand Slam tournaments this year following the Australian Open and the U.S. Open. Since the start of 2018, the seven-time Grand Slam champion has lost in the first round in seven of the past 11 major tournaments.

Coronavirus restrictions mean only 1,000 people are allowed per day at the tournament in western Paris. But only 150 were there to see 11th-seeded David Goffin begin his match against Next Gen ATP Finals champion Jannik Sinner at just after 11 a.m. under the new Chatrier roof.

Goffin, a former quarterfinalist here, was the first seeded player to be knocked out when he lost 7-5, 6-0, 6-3. His countrywoman Elise Mertens - seeded 16th - fared better in beating Margarita Gasparyan 6-2, 6-3. No. 25 Alex De Minaur also went out in straight sets, losing 7-6 (9), 6-4, 6-0 to 2018 semifinalist Marco Cecchinato.

No. 21 John Isner went through 6-4, 6-1, 6-3 against Elliot Benchetrit and the big-serving American next meets qualifier Sebastian Korda, whose father, Petr, won the 1998 Australian Open and was the runner-up here in 1992. The 20-year-old Korda beat Andreas Seppi of Italy 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3. No. 27 Taylor Fritz relinquished a two-set lead but the American held firm to win 7-5, 7-6 (2), 1-6, 2-6, 6-3 against Tomas Machac.

No. 17 Anett Kontaveit lost 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 to Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia, but No. 20 Maria Sakkari and No. 27 Ekaterina Alexandrova both advanced. In the pick of Sunday's later matches, three-time Grand Slam winners Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka were playing on Chatrier in the 21st meeting between the veterans. Wawrinka won here in 2015 and Murray lost the final to Novak Djokovic the following year.


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