Simona Halep eventually warmed to her French Open task as she won her opening match on a chilly first Sunday at Roland Garros.

Under the new roof on Court Philippe-Chatrier and on her 29th birthday, title favourite Halep stumbled through the opening stages before pulling away to beat Spain's Sara Sorribes Tormo 6-4 6-0.

From 4-2 behind in the opening set, after three consecutive breaks, Halep won 10 straight games to reach the second round of a tournament at which she won her first grand slam title two years ago.

She landed 90 per cent of first serves in the second set, and struck 11 winners to five from her fading opponent.

Fresh from winning the Internazionali d'Italia in Rome, Halep arrived in Paris as favourite and top seed for the final grand slam of the year.

The second set was a stroll against Sorribes Tormo, a player who had only won one match in three previous main-draw appearances at the clay-court slam.

Halep's early wobble may have been partly attributable to the unfamiliar conditions, with the temperature barely into double figures as the match began.

Because the tournament has been moved back from its usual May start amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Paris will feel quite different to the players in action over the 15-day tournament.

Romanian Halep paired a pink outfit with black leggings, and initially her tennis was as cold as the autumnal climate, but she predictably took control of matters and rolls on.

She was serenaded to mark her birthday by former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli during a post-match interview, with Halep hoping for more to celebrate in the coming fortnight.

Data slam: Erratic early, but Halep strengths shine through

Halep took charge of this contest once she cut down the unforced errors, which blighted her performance in the opening stages. She fired 12 winners in the opening set and 11 in the quickfire second, but the error count told the story of her improvement. After racking up 15 in the first set, Halep trimmed that number to a steadier eight in the second. She was clinical on her break-point opportunities, carving out nine and taking a healthy six of those.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Halep – 23/23
Sorribes Tormo – 10/16

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Halep – 1/0
Sorribes Tormo – 0/2

BREAK POINTS WON

Halep – 6/9
Sorribes Tormo – 2/4

Serena Williams said she does not have any expectations at the French Open and is simply "rolling with the punches" this year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The rescheduled French Open will get underway at Roland Garros on Sunday, with new government restrictions only allowing 1,000 fans per day.

The French Open was due to take place from May to June but the COVID-19 crisis forced the grand slam to be pushed back in Paris.

As former world number one and sixth seed Williams gears up for her opening-round match against Kristie Ahn, the 23-time grand slam champion was asked about her preparations and said: "It's so different, but I feel like this year, you've just got to roll with the punches.

"You can't expect anything and there are so many things, negative things - and positive - a lot of world changes that happened this year, so I'm not really feeling any bad way about anything really."

Williams experienced the US Open without fans in New York earlier this month – the American superstar beaten in the semi-finals by Victoria Azarenka.

The 39-year-old will resume her bid for a record-equalling 24th major crown at the French Open, where she has won three titles.

"I think the only difference is that it's at the end of September. Usually I end my season after the [US] Open, but this time around I'm here at Roland-Garros," Williams said. "That's the only difference. It's always cold for me."

Williams will also go from the American hard courts straight to clay without a lead-up tournament.

"I honestly don't really think about it," she added. "I think I had some good practices. I haven't played on clay yet, so we'll see.

"I thoroughly enjoy the clay so much, I just love it. So I'm looking forward to playing some."

Elina Svitolina will launch her Roland Garros challenge on the back of a fifth WTA Tour title on clay after triumphing at the Internationaux de Strasbourg.

The Ukrainian was a 6-4 1-6 6-2 winner against Kazakhstan's Elena Rybakina in Saturday's final.

In a title match that was delayed for a short while because of rain, Svitolina was delighted to find focus for the decider after momentum looked to be with Rybakina.

Searching for the form she displayed early on in the match, Svitolina saved a string of break points in the opening game of the third set, restoring the belief that had been ebbing away.

The world number five said: "It really gave me confidence to come back into the match. The second set was a little bit one-sided. It gave me hope and a better feel at the beginning of the third set."

Svitolina, who won the French Open girls' title in 2010 when she beat Ons Jabeur, has twice reached quarter-finals in the main draw in Paris.

She has a strong record on clay though, twice winning the Internazionali d'Italia at the expense of Simona Halep, beating the Romanian in the 2017 and 2018 finals in Rome.

Her strike rate in WTA finals is also phenomenal, with Svitolina improving her record to 15 wins from 18 title matches.

The 26-year-old described her third-set revival as "really positive stuff for me", as it showed she could cope with the unusual circumstances.

Clay-court tennis in Europe is typically played during the warmest months of the year, but the COVID-19 pandemic has shunted it back, and the soggy Strasbourg weather may be a sign of things to come in the year's final grand slam.

Svitolina, quoted on the WTA website, said: "Normally the tournaments are playing in really hot conditions. We were happy to finish today. In the end we got lucky to play."

As Svitolina enjoyed her second title of the year, Rybakina reflected on a fourth defeat in five WTA finals in 2020.

Rybakina said: "I can serve a little bit better and make some better decisions. It was so tough to play today because of the cold."

Elena Rybakina will meet Elina Svitolina in her fifth WTA Tour final of 2020 at the Internationaux de Strasbourg.

The Kazakh beat Nao Hibino 6-3 6-4 in one hour and 16 minutes in the last four to reach her first final since the Tour resumed following the coronavirus pandemic.

No one has been to more WTA finals in 2020 than Rybakina, though she has only won one of her previous four - the Hobart International in January.

Hibino had knocked out Sloane Stephens and Jelena Ostapenko to reach her maiden clay-court semi-final, but this proved a step too far for the unseeded Japanese.

Svitolina made her second final of 2020 with a 6-2 4-6 6-4 triumph over Aryna Sabalenka in the other last-four meeting.

Sabalenka had completed her rain-delayed quarter-final over Katerina Siniakova across three sets earlier in the day, and that may have taken its toll in a match against Svitolina that lasted almost two hours. 

Simona Halep is "honoured" to be the favourite to win the French Open and the top seed says that tag will not put extra pressure on her to regain the title.

Halep savoured a first grand slam triumph at Roland Garros in 2018 and went on to double her tally at Wimbledon last year.

The world number two has won back-to-back tournaments since returning to the WTA Tour following a six-month hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, her latest success coming at the Internazionali d'Italia in Rome last weekend

Defending champion Ash Barty, the world number one, and US Open champion Naomi Osaka are among the absentees for what will be the final major of the year.

Halep, who plays Sara Sorribes Tormo in the first round of her grand slam comeback after skipping the US Open, appears to be more concerned about the cold and rain in the French capital than being expected to lift the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen for a second time.

The Romanian said: "I'm honoured to hear that I am the favourite, people thinking that I'm the favourite. But I don't look in that way.

"I know that most of the players are favourite because everyone is working hard, everyone is ready for this tournament. So I'm not going into that too much. I just try to play my chance, try to play every match, and we will see how it is going to be in the end.

"It's not extra pressure [to be the favourite]. I'm used to this kind of pressure because I've been number one seeded in the past. I've been in this position. So, no, I take it in a right way, and I take it as a normal tournament. So no extra pressure."

She added: "I feel good. I feel confident. But you never know. So I will take day by day and I will try to give my best every day to get ready for the tournament."

Halep says it will be strange to play in the clay-court grand slam four months later than usual as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

The 28-year-old said: "To play Roland Garros in September, end of September, it's a little bit weird. But it's nice that we have the chance to play at this tournament. We should thank everyone for fighting so hard to do it possible. Let's see now who is going to be ready for it."

"When it's cold, it's a little bit heavier and a little bit different. It's a big difference between Rome and here, that's for sure. Fifteen degrees less. I feel the cold. I feel like struggling a little bit. But it is the same for everybody."

The French Tennis Federation (FFT) says it "deeply regrets" new government restrictions that will only allow 1,000 spectators per day into Roland Garros to watch the French Open. 

Tournament organisers were forced to reduce the number of people allowed into the famous venue on a daily basis from 11,500 to 5,000 last week due to new rules introduced to try and stop the rise in coronavirus infection rates. 

Just two days before the grand slam gets under way, the FFT has had to inform those with tickets that they may be left disappointed due to further restrictions. 

A daily draw will now take place to determine who will be able to attend what will be the last major of the year. 

A statement on the French Open website said: "Following the announcements made by government authorities, 1,000 spectators will be permitted to enter the Roland Garros grounds per day. 

"This cap applies across all 16 courts in the 12-hectare site and is equivalent to one 35th of the usual number of spectators that have attended in the first week of the main draw in previous years.    

"From the very outset of the public health crisis that our country is experiencing, the French Tennis Federation has consistently worked closely with government departments, to determine how to organise the tournament in the current situation.  It deeply regrets these new restrictions. 

"On Sunday, 27 September, the world's greatest players will compete in the main draw, in a transformed stadium, in a tournament broadcast in 222 countries around the world. 

"The new rules mean that we will be required to adapt our ticketing situation, by organising a draw for each day of the tournament among the current ticket-holders. These draws will be supervised by a legal custodian."

Margaret Court's record is still in play, but Serena Williams' era of dominance on the WTA Tour looks to be winding down as another grand slam approaches.

Williams has won none of the past 13 majors, dating back to her most recent success at the 2017 Australian Open, though she missed the first four of those having given birth.

This is the 23-time champion's longest stretch without a grand slam win since she made her Melbourne bow in 1998.

Williams has reached at least the semi-finals in five of her past eight major appearances, yet she has not recorded a win in that time and, having not made the Roland Garros quarter-finals since 2016, an end to that miserable run appears unlikely in the coming weeks.

So could the future of the women's game be present in Paris? Well, finding Serena's heir is proving rather difficult.

While she is one of seven female players to have claimed 10 or more major titles, Serena is the only member of that elite group to have won a championship in the 21st century.

Justine Henin and Serena's sister Venus have each had seven wins, yet other genuine rivals have been a rarity over the past 20 years.

Roland Garros results have illustrated this trend as well as any championship. Only Serena, Henin and Maria Sharapova have won multiple French Open titles since the start of the 2000 season, with Henin's 2005-2007 run the last time a woman celebrated consecutive triumphs on the red clay.

That drought will continue for at least another year, too, due to Ash Barty's absence.

Another name missing from this year's draw is perhaps the most likely candidate to emulate Williams' success. US Open champion Naomi Osaka is still just 22 but has won three of the past seven majors she has contested. That also amounts to just three victories in three seasons, but time is on her side as she looks to shape her own legacy.

Williams is Osaka's idol, as was so painfully evident when the Japanese shed tears following a grand slam breakthrough that came during Serena's 2018 US Open meltdown. The pair watched one another at Flushing Meadows earlier this month, although Serena's last-four defeat prevented a highly anticipated final rematch.

"I feel like she's such an intense player that is really exciting to watch," Williams said of Osaka, who looks to have adopted her role model's single-minded drive.

Discussing her impressive grand slam record prior to this month's victory over Victoria Azarenka, Osaka revealed her approach: "No-one remembers anyone but the winner."

Yet Osaka has work to do if she is going to be a winner on all surfaces like Williams, one of just two players - along with Sharapova - to win a career Grand Slam since the turn of the century. Angelique Kerber could join that club in the coming weeks, yet French Open success seems increasingly unlikely for the two-time quarter-finalist and world number 22. Osaka has not been past the third round at Roland Garros or Wimbledon, reserving her success for the hard courts.

Meanwhile, although victory at the Australian Open in 2019 quickly added to Osaka's first triumph, that second title has proved tricky for a number of other hopefuls.

Since Serena's 23rd major honour, six women have become one-off grand slam winners - including Sofia Kenin, 21, and Bianca Andreescu, 20. The pair are younger than several other champions, yet neither have even reached a quarter-final outside of their sole successes.

Andreescu has seen her 2020 season completely wrecked by injury and withdrew from Roland Garros this week. In her stead, others will look to join her as a champion. Qatar Open winner Aryna Sabalenka, Elena Rybakina and last year's French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova are each younger than Osaka and hold a place in the WTA's top 20.

Then, of course, there is Coco Gauff, ranked 51st.

The 16-year-old beat Venus at both the 2019 US Open and the 2020 Australian Open, also eliminating defending champion Osaka at the latter. At each tournament, she lost only to the eventual winner.

"She clearly wants it, works very hard, is extremely mature for her age," Venus said. "I think the sky's the limit for her."

But a first-round exit at the US Open represented a reality check for Gauff. With no Barty and no Osaka, might she seize the opportunity and bounce back in stunning style at Roland Garros?

Or is this Serena's time? Number 24 at last. It is up to the next generation to ensure she cannot afford to keep passing up such chances.

Elina Svitolina progressed to the semi-finals of the Internationaux de Strasbourg but will have to wait until Friday to find out her opponent after rain suspended play between Aryna Sabalenka and Katerina Siniakova.

Number two seed Svitolina was made to work hard for her 6-4 6-3 victory over Jil Teichmann, battling back from a break down in both sets.

The world number five took an hour and 23 minutes to secure her first semi-final for six months.

"It was a great fight from Jil and I think both of us were playing at a really good level at some points," Svitolina said.

"I was fighting. I didn't start the match very well, but I was trying to be very focused and fight back. In the end, I'm very happy with how I handled the match."

Sabalenka and Siniakova will resume their contest on Friday after the latter claimed the first set 6-2. Play was suspended due to rain with the Czech 2-1 down in the second but serving next.

The other semi-final will be contested by fifth seed Elena Rybakina, who defeated Zhang Shuai 6-3 6-2, and Nao Hibino, who ousted 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko 7-6 (7-2) 7-6 (7-4).

US Open champion Dominic Thiem was dealt a difficult hand in an exciting men's French Open draw, while Serena Williams was handed a tough route in the women's competition.

Thiem finally ended his wait for a first major title in New York earlier this month, beating Alexander Zverev in a five-set epic after losing his prior three finals.

Two of those came in the most recent two French Open finals against Rafael Nadal, although there will be no repeat this year.

Thiem is in the bottom half of the draw along with Nadal, who starts against Egor Gerasimov, and has a tricky schedule right from the outset.

The Austrian has grand slam winner Marin Cilic in the first round, and Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka – two other former major champions – are potential fourth-round opponents as they begin against one another in an intriguing clash.

Nadal could have to tackle John Isner in the last 16, while Zverev is also in the bottom half of the draw.

World number one Novak Djokovic has Mikael Ymer up first and could meet Pablo Carreno Busta in the quarter-finals, having been defaulted from the US Open when facing the Spaniard – his only defeat of the year.

Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas are in the top half, too.

Meanwhile, Williams, still bidding for a record-equalling 24th major title, is set to meet Victoria Azarenka in round four.

Azarenka came from a set down to beat Williams in the semi-finals at Flushing Meadows before she was defeated in the championship match by Naomi Osaka, who is absent in France.

Defending champion Ash Barty and 2019 US Open winner Bianca Andreescu are also missing, while world number 10 Belinda Bencic withdrew shortly before the draw.

But Williams still faces a difficult task just to reach the final.

A potential victory over Azarenka in the last 16 could see the 38-year-old paired with third seed Elina Svitolina in the quarters, while top seed, world number two and 2018 champion Simona Halep is also in the same half.

Williams starts against Kristie Ahn, who she defeated in her US Open opener.

Kiki Bertens is in the same quarter as Halep, which sees arguably the pick of the first-round matches as Coco Gauff takes on Johanna Konta, last year's semi-finalist.

Marketa Vondrousova, beaten by Barty in the 2019 final, is a potential fourth-round opponent for Halep.

Karolina Pliskova and Petra Kvitova are in the same section as former champion Jelena Ostapenko and Germany's Angelique Kerber, who could complete a career Grand Slam.

Garbine Muguruza, another previous winner, is in Sofia Kenin's quarter with Aryna Sabalenka.

Aryna Sabalenka avoided an upset by fighting back to defeat Anna Blinkova 1-6 6-4 6-2 and reach the Internationaux de Strasbourg quarter-finals.

The world number 12, this year's champion in Doha, made the last-eight stage for the first time since the WTA returned after the coronavirus shutdown having won just three matches before this week.

Katerina Siniakova awaits after the Czech upset the odds to defeat seventh seed Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-2 6-4.

Alexandrova defeated Siniakova when winning her first WTA singles title in Shenzhen this season but was unable to repeat the feat.

"I feel really good on clay," Siniakova said. "It was tough, it was a good match, I'm happy about it."

Nao Hibino defeated Zarina Diyas in straight sets, while third seed Kiki Bertens withdrew injured when trailing 4-2 in the decided set of her clash with Jelena Ostapenko.

Bianca Andreescu will not play again in 2020 after confirming her intention to skip the clay-court swing.

The 2019 US Open champion has not played a competitive match since sustaining a knee injury during the WTA Finals last October.

Andreescu's agent had already confirmed her withdrawal from the French Open, with the main draw due to begin on Sunday.

And in a post on social media, Andreescu wrote: "I have come to the difficult decision to skip the clay-court swing this year and will be taking the remainder of the season off to focus on my health and my training.

"As hard as it was to come to this conclusion, I have so much to look forward to in 2021, including the Olympics; I want to use this time to focus on my game so I can come back stronger and better than ever.

"As always, all of your encouraging words and support mean the world to me and I look forward to getting back on the court and competing for Canada next year!"

Andreescu became the first Canadian to win a grand slam title when she defeated Serena Williams in the final at Flushing Meadows last year.

She remains number seven in the WTA rankings despite her elongated period of inactivity.

Elina Svitolina battled past Magda Linette to reach the quarter-finals of the Internationaux de Strasbourg on Tuesday.

The second seed won the first set via a tie-break and came back from a double break down in the second to seal a 7-6 (7-0) 7-5 victory in an hour and 58 minutes.

Linette was just two points away from winning the opener and missed an opportunity to force a decider on set point in the second.

"It definitely was not easy. She was fighting back, she was trying to produce a good level; I was up and down," said Svitolina, who reached the quarter-finals on her return to the WTA Tour at the Internazionali d'Italia last week.

"It's not easy to come from another tournament with different balls, different conditions. I was trying just to fight and, in the end, I was lucky I finished in two sets."

Jil Teichmann awaits Svitolina in the last eight following a 7-6 (7-3) 7-5 win against 2018 champion Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, while there were also victories for Elena Rybakina and Zhang Shuai.

Aryna Sabalenka revealed her decision not to take on Dieter Kindlmann as a coach after she cruised to a straight-sets win over Ellen Perez at the Internationaux de Strasbourg.

Number four seed Sabalenka was in fine form as she made a convincing start to her campaign, taking just over an hour to beat qualifier Perez 6-4 6-3 and move into the second round.

Perez was last year's doubles champion in Strasbourg but was no match for the world number 12, who is currently operating with her hitting partner as a coach.

Sabalenka had been working with Kindlmann, who used to coach her doubles partner Elise Mertens, heading into the US Open, but the Belarusian elected not to keep him on.

"I told him that I think I'm not ready for a new person on my team," Sabalenka explained.

"He's a great guy, great coach, but I'm just not ready. I'm going to work with my hitting partner for now as my coach."

Anna Blinkova, who beat Myrtille Georges 6-1 6-2, awaits Sabalenka in round two.

Former US Open champion Sloane Stephens succumbed to the shock result of the day, meanwhile, as she crashed out to world number 83 Nao Hibino. 

Stephens was going up against an opponent who was 0-3 across her first three events since the season was restarted, but Hibino secured a hard-fought 6-2 3-6 6-1 triumph.

"Last week, I lost in qualies in Rome and it was not a good match, so I learned from that," Hibino said after the match. "Of course, Sloane is a good player, especially on clay courts. I prepared mentally and with tactics, so I think it helped a lot today."

It was a bad day for Stephens' compatriot Christina McHale, who went down 6-7 (4-7) 7-5 7-6 (7-3) to Zarina Diyas.

Magda Linette beat Pauline Parmentier to set up a tie with second seed Elina Svitolina, while third seed Kiki Bertens will meet Jelena Ostapenko.

There were also victories for Elena Rybakina, Ekaterina Alexandrova, Alize Cornet, Shuai Zhang and Katerina Siniakova.

Simona Halep is not putting any pressure on herself ahead of the French Open after Karolina Pliskova's retirement handed her the Internazionali d'Italia title.

Halep was leading the two-time defending champion 6-0 2-1 in Rome when Pliskova retired in tears because of injury.

The Czech called a medical timeout between sets and had treatment on her lower back and leg.

It is Halep's third consecutive title, with the two-time grand slam champion on a 14-match winning streak after a triumph that further solidifies her status as French Open favourite.

The 2018 Roland Garros champion is not willing to burden herself with the weight of expectation despite her hugely impressive form.

"It's just another tournament," Halep said. "I'm not going to put pressure on myself. I've played really well this year, with three titles already.

"I've played so much on clay, so I feel confident and happy that I'll have a chance to play another grand slam this year.

"I'm not going to let myself be bothered by things like the weather. I'll just be happy to take positives from this tournament and go there smiling.

"It's a dream for everyone to win the grand slam tournament from the first day, so it's my dream as well, but I'm not thinking that far.

"I just want to go there, get used to the courts and the atmosphere, and try to win every match I play. Every match is a battle, so I'll be ready for it."

Pliskova had won three of the previous four meetings with Halep but was full of appreciation for the Romanian after falling short this time around.

"Disappointing for me to not finish today, but Simo, obviously too strong," said Pliskova. 

"I always have to be 100 per cent to play a good match against you. Congratulations for the whole week. I think you deserve the title."

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova was delighted to have fans in attendance to witness her hard-fought triumph over Alison Van Uytvanck at the Internationaux de Strasbourg.

Pavlyuchenkova, champion at Strasbourg in 2018, overcame Van Uytvanck 6-3 7-5 on Sunday in a contest lasting an hour and 37 minutes.

The world number 36 had to save two set points in the 10th game of the second but held her nerve and quickly wrapped things up without the need for a decider.

With a limited number of fans allowed to attend sporting events in France amid the coronavirus pandemic, Pavlyuchenkova was thrilled to finally be back playing in front of spectators.

"I like this event and I have good memories as I won it two years ago," she said. "It was strange and nice at the same time to see a crowd out there today. There were a lot of people.

"I'm really happy with the win and the way I played. I started the match really well. I was aggressive and solid at the same time."

Jil Teichmann is next up for Pavlyuchenkova after her 6-2 6-3 triumph over sixth seed Amanda Anisimova.

In Sunday's other match, Clara Burel came from behind to beat Kateryna Bondarenko 3-6 6-1 6-4.

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