PARIS — Always so avant-garde, Serena Williams started this year’s French Open fashion of addressing the Court Philippe Chatrier spectators in their language.
Rafael Nadal followed suit after his first-round victory, as did Roger Federer, who’s done it for years.
And Novak Djokovic also got in on a ritual that’s become de rigueur, telling fans in French at the end of a rain-disrupted Day 3 at the clay-court tournament, “The ambiance was awesome.”
That’s certainly one way to endear oneself to the locals.
“I really wanted to finish tonight,” Djokovic said after wrapping up his match shortly before 9 p.m. Tuesday, “although I know the crowd wanted to watch a little longer.”
Because of the wet weather, there was not much tennis to see — only two of the four matches originally scheduled for Tuesday in the main stadium actually began. So 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 centre 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 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 a long day,” Djokovic said.
At least he got to play.
Because of showers that began in the morning, there was a delay of more than 2 1/2 hours at the start. Then, after only 1 1/2 hours of action, another stop of more than an hour came. In the end, 26 of 40 scheduled singles matches were completed, three were suspended in progress, and 11 were postponed entirely. That means players such as Victoria Azarenka, the reigning Australian Open champion, was slated for first-round action Wednesday, the fourth day of the tournament (when, by the way, the forecast called for more rain).
That sets up a situation where Azarenka, for example, would need to win seven matches across 11 days to take home the trophy, while 2002 champion Williams — who got to begin the tournament Sunday and was scheduled to play in the second round Wednesday — would have her seven matches spread over 14 days.
Also among those who had yet to play a real point heading into Wednesday was 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova. The Day 4 program featured second-round matches for 2009 champion Federer and 2012 runner-up Sara Errani.
Tuesday’s winners included 2010 French Open runner-up and 2011 U.S. Open champion Sam Stosur, who beat 42-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm of Japan 6-0, 6-2.