It was a case of will they or won’t they Tuesday as Novak Djokovic and Roberto Bautista Agut stood in the tunnel getting ready to walk on Court Philippe Chatrier before getting held back by officials who were unsure if the rain would stop.
Both Djokovic and Bautista tried to stay calm, stretching and warming up, while outside, the umpire and supervisor were inspecting the court and discussing whether play should resume following a lengthy rain delay.
Andy Murray was seen in the stands, checking the weather himself to see if there was any chance he would be playing his match later in the day.
Djokovic looked stressed at one point but then walked on court to check out how heavy the rain actually was.
He decided to take an umbrella from one of the spectators and started goofing around on the court – doing a funny little skip – probably to lighten his own mood before officials eventually decided play should resume.
That break in tension worked for him as he levelled his match with Bautista and walked off court leading the Spaniard before play was stopped once again.
During the second rain delay, Djokovic looked relaxed in the players’ restaurant, walking around with his arm around his wife Jelena and greeting people left and right.
It is the Serb’s ability to handle such stressful situations that could end up winning him the French Open.
Agnieszka Radwanska expressed her anger at having to play under the rain following her 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 exit to world No102 Tsvetana Pironkova in the French Open fourth round on Tuesday.
The Polish No2 seed was up 6-2, 3-0 against Pironkova before play was suspended due to the rain on Monday. The match was originally scheduled for Sunday but was also postponed for bad weather.
Upon resumption of the match on Tuesday, Radwanska lost 10 games in a row, on either side of another rain delay, to fall behind 2-6, 6-3, 4-0.
She received some treatment on her right hand from the trainer before getting one break back and held for 2-4 in the third. But Pironkova still closed out the match three games later to enter the quarter-finals in Paris for the first time in 11 main draw appearances.
Asked about the nature of the injury that required treatment in the third set, Radwanska said: “It was my hand. Well, I had surgery few years ago and I couldn’t really play in that conditions. End of story.”
Radwanska, a quarter-finalist in Paris in 2013, hit out at organisers for making players in wet conditions.
Djokovic takes an umbrella from someone from the stands and is goofing around till a decision is made pic.twitter.com/SW31tgCaGV— Reem Abulleil (@ReemAbulleil) May 31, 2016
“I’m just so surprised and angry, that we have to play in the rain. I mean, it’s not a 10,000 tournament. It’s a grand slam. How can you allow players to play in the rain? I cannot play in that conditions.”
Radwanska said she complained about getting on court the first time, in the morning, when the Pole and her peers were asked to play for 37 minutes under the rain before taken off court again.
“We played pretty much in the rain. I don’t know who allows us to play in that kind of conditions,” said a fuming Radwanska.
“I mean, I don’t think they really care what we think. I think they care about other things, I guess.
“So, well, I’m just pissed. I just cannot play in that conditions. I mean, I’m not healthy enough.
“I had hand surgery a few years ago, and for me, playing with those balls in that kind of court is pretty much impossible. So, I mean, I tried. Maybe I played worse, did worse things other days than when we start to play that match, but it definitely, you know, shouldn’t be like this.
“We shouldn’t play in that kind of rain. Why? We still have couple of days of tournament. What’s the point?”
Pironkova, who had never made it past the third round in Paris prior to this fortnight, was thrilled to make her third career major quarter-final (other two were at Wimbledon).
“It’s very difficult with all the rain, we waited almost three days to finish the match, but I can’t complain, it turned out great for me,” the Bulgarian said on court.
Pironkova next faces No21 seed Sam Stosur in the last eight.
In Pironkova’s opinion, the court was safe enough for play and it wasn’t the first time she had to compete in such conditions.
“It happened before, of course,” said the 28-year-old. “We have played in all sorts of conditions. Usually if the court is not fit for play, like if it’s slippery, they would cancel the match right away. But today the court was still hanging in, it was okay, we could have played, and so we did.”
Sixth-seeded Simona Halep, a runner-up in Paris in 2014, echoed Radwanska’s sentiments following her 7-6 (0), 6-3 to Stosur.
Halep was up 5-3 against the Aussie on Monday before play was suspended.
“I cannot comment about the conditions because I have no words,” said a dejected Halep.
She shared Radwanska’s feelings that organisers “don’t care” about the players and are favouring the interests of the tournament instead.
Halep said she did not complain because she knew it would be futile, but she was unhappy with the conditions.
Stosur felt the court was playable.
“I know what it feels like out there and I know it was raining for the first time we went out today, but the court was okay for the most part,” said Stosur, a runner-up in Paris in 2010.
“I don’t think Simona was complaining about it. Again, we’re told to play, we play. If it gets too wet you’ve got to say something. Yeah, I mean, like it’s not good out there, but it was fine for us.”
In the match that followed Halep and Stosur on Court 1, Ernests Gulbis and David Goffin protested relentlessly to stop the match, complaining about the conditions. Gulbis at one point started walking off the court before umpire Eva Asderaki convinced him to walk back to his bench.
But further argument from both players led to play getting suspended, even though the matches on Philippe Chatrier and Suzanne Lenglen continued for a while longer.
When Halep was told about Gulbis and Goffin winning their battle with the officials, she said: “Good (showing thumbs up). Well done to them.”
Rain forced organisers to change Tuesday’s schedule, cancelling the quarter-finals between Andy Murray and Richard Gasquet, and Stan Wawrinka and Albert Ramos-Vinolas. The remaining ladies’ singles matches were all postponed to Wednesday as well.
Stan Wawrinka has captured his 50th grand slam victory under the tutelage of Magnus Norman to enter the Roland Garros quarter-finals and the dream team are looking to add a third major trophy to the Swiss’ tally this fortnight in Paris.
Since teaming up with Norman in the spring of 2013, Wawrinka has made the quarter-finals or better in 10 of the 13 grand slams he has entered.
Wawrinka had done that just twice in the 32 majors he played prior to teaming up with the Swede.
“It’s not so much about me, it’s more about wanting to help him,” Norman says modestly when asked to reflect on those 50 grand slam match wins they’ve amassed together.
“It’s been going really well since we started and I’m more happy for Stan, because I know how many years he was trying and how many years of hard work is behind these results. So I’m happy he’s been able to finally produce good tennis at big tournaments.”
In the last-eight on Tuesday, Wawrinka faces grand slam quarter-final debutant Albert Ramos-Vinolas, who lost to the Swiss quite easily, less than two weeks ago in Geneva.
It’s the second time Wawrinka will face an opponent he had just beaten at his home tournament in the previous week, having also taken out Lukas Rosol in both Geneva and Paris within a three-day period.
“I think every tournament is a new tournament. Same for Stan, coming to French Open trying to defend his title, Stan doesn’t think like that. It’s a new tournament, every year starts from zero and you try to take as many points as possible throughout the year and if you take them in January or May it doesn’t really matter,” explains Norman, who will be playing in the Perrier Legends Trophy at Roland Garros this week.
“And the same goes in this case. It’s a new match, new circumstances, Albert is playing well, he’s confident, obviously Stan is as well.
“It can change very much from one week to another. We saw he played Rosol in Geneva as well and almost lost to Rosol here (in Paris), so things can turn around one way or the other very quickly. It’s a new match and we have to start from zero.”
Wawrinka is 6-0 against Ramos-Vinolas but they’ve had tight battles in the past.
“He’s a really dangerous player. He’s a player that maybe from my side, yeah, you don’t think he’s going to be that tough, but when you play against him he’s a tough player to play,” said the third-seeded Wawrinka.
Prior to capturing the title in Geneva, Wawrinka had struggled this clay season and not many fancied his chances of defending his Roland Garros title.
Norman believes winning Geneva was a crucial turning point coming into Paris.
“He was struggling to win matches and get confidence. It was very important for Stan to, maybe not win the title, but at least to play two, three matches in a row to get the rhythm of winning and playing again so that was important, more important this year maybe than last year,” said Norman, a former French Open finalist.
“Because last year he already beat Rafa (Nadal) in Rome, playing semi-finals in Rome. He had already played quite a lot of matches. This year he struggled in Monte Carlo, Rome and Madrid, not playing so many matches, so it was more important this year than last year.”
The 40-year-old Swede doesn’t think his charge is facing any extra pressure being the defending champion here.
“We knew that the tennis was there because he was playing well in practice, but in the matches he was struggling to find it, so it was more about that than being stressed of having to defend something,” says Norman.
Wawrinka becomes a more dangerous player with each round, particularly at the majors and Norman does not have a particular explanation for the Swiss’ superior record in best-of-five match play.
“The more tennis he plays, the better he is. The last few years he has a better record in best-of-five sets than best-of-three. For some reason he’s an aerobic player, he needs time to get going and he can go for a long time. Best-of-five suits him well and playing long tournaments and a lot of tennis seems to bring the best out of him,” says Norman.
Rain has been a real pain for tournament organisers and with more bad weather expected, it’s looking more and more likely that the players will have to play on back-to-back days.
“For sure it’s going to be an issue but at the same time it’s more or less the same for everybody. But you want to save as much energy as possible if you have to play back-to-back days. If you play five sets compared to a guy who maybe plays three sets of course it’s going to be a huge difference and it’s going to be an issue. But there’s nothing we can do about it,” says Norman.
Asked if a line needs to be drawn somewhere on how many consecutive days a player should play before a decision is made on pushing the day of the final, Norman said: “We have to finish the tournament so…
“But a roof would be nice,” he added with a laugh.
On his part, Wawrinka is feeling confident ahead of his quarter-final on Tuesday and is happy with how he has stepped up mentally when he needed to so far this fortnight.
“I’m still around. I’m a good tennis player. Physically and in terms of game play I can deliver. Mentally there were ups and downs at some points, but if I look at what’s been happening since the start of the tournament, when I need to be there, I am,” said the 31-year-old.