Ruud, Sabalenka light up Roland Garros after rain wreaks havoc on schedule

Sabalenka was equally quick as last year's semifinalist mowed down Russian teenager Erika Andreeva in 68 minutes 6-1 6-2

By Reuters

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Belarus' Aryna Sabalenka hits a backhand return during her match against Russia's Erika Andreeva. — Reuters
Belarus' Aryna Sabalenka hits a backhand return during her match against Russia's Erika Andreeva. — Reuters

Published: Tue 28 May 2024, 10:56 PM

Casper Ruud and Aryna Sabalenka shone brightly on a cold, rainy day at the French Open on Tuesday as they moved into the second round with dominant victories but spectators at Roland Garros were largely starved of action with a long evening looming.

With the weather preventing any chance of play on the outer courts before 4 pm local time, the proceedings were limited to the two main showcourts - Philippe Chatrier and Suzanne Lenglen - both of which have retractable roofs.


Twice runner-up Ruud swept aside Brazilian qualifier Felipe Alves 6-3 6-4 6-3 in a renewed bid for a maiden Grand Slam title in Paris after disappointments in the previous two years.

High on confidence following his Geneva triumph, the world number seven produced a masterclass in serving as he raced past his unheralded opponent in under two hours.


"This is one of the biggest tournaments for me and everyone every year. One of my highlights. I'm always looking forward to it. The last two years have given me so much here," Ruud said.

"I hope I can make it another good year."

Sabalenka was equally quick as last year's semifinalist mowed down Russian teenager Erika Andreeva in 68 minutes 6-1 6-2.

The 26-year-old, who successfully defended her Australian Open title earlier this year, is attempting to become the first woman to triumph at Melbourne and Paris in the same year since American Serena Williams achieved the feat in 2015.

"I'm just trying to separate myself from all those facts. I mean, I know that if I'll be able to focus on myself and I'll be able to fight for every point and try to find solution in each game I will be able to win these big tournaments," she said.

"But I just try to take it step by step."

Sabalenka arrived at Roland Garros as a top contender for the title after strong results in the European claycourt swing - losing only to Iga Swiatek and Marketa Vondrousova - and wasted little time to get going on Court Philippe Chatrier.

After breaking in the fourth game when 19-year-old Andreeva hit a double fault, Sabalenka fired up her forehand to quickly build up a 5-1 lead and closed out the opening set when her opponent sent a shot wide.

Sabalenka pounced on world number 100 Andreeva's serve again to grab the lead in the second set before handing the break back while attempting a chip from deep, but last year's semifinalist promptly surged ahead 4-2 after saving more breakpoints.

Having neutralised the increased threat from Andreeva, she wrapped up the contest on serve in 68 minutes, finishing it off on her third matchpoint with a sublime drop shot at the net to huge cheers from the crowd.

"In practice I do it very well," Sabalenka said on court earlier. "But I wasn't sure I can do it on the match court.

"Now I started using it in the matches. It didn't work well before but now it has started working finally, after many years of practising my touch game."

Up next for the Belarusian is Irene Burillo Escorihuela or Moyuka Uchijima, with the two qualifiers set to face off later.

Fourth seed Elena Rybakina overcame an early wobble to glide past Belgian Greet Minnen 6-2 6-3 earlier in the day, showing no signs of the illness that had hampered her preparations for the year's second major.

Australian Alex De Minaur thumped Alex Michelsen, Petra Martic overcame Kristina Mladenovic and Arantxa Rus stunned three-times Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber in the few matches that were completed on the outside courts.

With typically British weather descending on Roland Garros, the nation's last two hopes in the singles draws - Dan Evans and Katie Boulter - will hope to extend their stays but face tough tests against Holger Rune and Paula Badosa.

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