Tue, 20 Oct 2020

Halep, Gauff win French openers

Field Level Media
28 Sep 2020, 06:05 GMT+10

No. 1 seed Simona Halep fought off two break points in the first set, then cruised to victory in opening-round play at the French Open on Sunday -- her 29th birthday.

The Romanian was down 2-4 in the opening set, then reeled off 10 straight game wins to defeat Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain 6-4, 6-0 in one hour, 22 minutes.

"The perfect present was that I won today, of course," Halep said after the match. "It was a really special day playing on Roland Garros on my birthday. So it's going to be pretty unique, maybe forever."

She probably won't play at Roland Garros in September again. The tournament was moved from its May 24 start game to the fall because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Halep and Sorribes Tormo became the first women to play on Court Philippe Chatrier since the addition of a roof, much needed on a raw and rainy day in Paris.

"Still, I felt the cold," Halep said. "I'm not very happy with the cold in general. So it was a little bit tough. I struggled. But, you know, I just have in my mind it is for both of us the same, so I have just to keep calm. The fact that I could change a little bit the tactic during the match, it makes me very pleased with the victory."

World No. 2 Halep found her groove in the seventh game of first set. She broke Sorribes Tormo's serve -- one of her six service breaks on the day -- then reeled off four straight points to tie the match at 4-4. Halep repeated the formula in the next two games to win the set.

The match win was Halep's 15th straight on the WTA. She has won the three most recent tournaments she's entered -- in Dubai before the coronavirus-forced hiatus, then in Prague and Rome. The 2018 champion, Halep is a three-time finalist at Roland Garros.

In other action on Sunday, American teenager Coco Gauff cruised past No.9 seed and 2019 French Open semifinalist Johanna Konta of Great Britain 6-3, 6-3.

Gauff, the world's No. 51-ranked player, notched the fourth win over a Top 20 player in her career. The 16-year-old capitalized on five of her 12 break chances.

Gauff will face Italian qualifier Martina Trevisan in the second round. Trevisan beat countrywoman Camila Giorgi when Giorgi retired while trailing 7-5, 3-0.

No. 10 seed Victoria Azarenka, the runner-up at the U.S. Open -- defeated Danka Kovinic of Montenegro 6-1, 6-2 in just 61 minutes of play.

Playing early in the day on Court Suzanne Lenglen, which doesn't have a roof, the women endured a 30-minute rain delay in the first set, but Azarenka's game wasn't impacted. The former World No. 1's biggest challenge came after the third game, when play was halted. The two players were asked to remain courtside, and Azarenka, a Belarus native, walked off the court after consulting with Kovinic and the two deciding they didn't want to wait outdoors in the cold and rain.

"No, I'm not waiting here a couple minutes because I'm cold," Azarenka told the official, per ESPN. "It's 8 degrees (Celsius). I live in Florida, I'm used to hot weather."

Anna Karolina Schmiedlova of Slovakia ousted former champion Venus Williams 6-4, 6-4 and will take on Azarenka on Tuesday in the next round.

Other winners in opening-round play included No. 27 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russian over Maddison Inglis of Australia 6-3, 6-3; No. 16 Elise Mertens of Belgium defeated Margarita Gasparyan of Russia 6-2, 6-3; unseeded Caroline Garcia topped No. 17 Anett Kontaveit of Estonia 6-4, 3-6, 6-4; and No. 20 Maria Sakkari of Greece eliminated Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia 6-0, 7-5.

Also, Australian Daria Gavrilova topped Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine 6-4, 6-3, and Czech Barbora Strycova defeated American Varvara Lepchenko 7-5, 6-2.

--Field Level Media

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