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Nadal’s absence felt as French Open kicks off at Roland Garros

Spectators were lining up in massive numbers under panama hats and umbrellas as the French Open started in bright sunshine at Roland Garros on Sunday.

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After a record 50,000 people compared to 29,000 last year attended the qualifying event this week, there was a stir on court Philippe Chatrier as Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk refused to shake hands with world number two Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus after losing 6-3 6-2.

Kostyuk had warned she would not be shaking hands with Russian and Belarusian players due to Moscow’s invasion of its neighbour, and the Paris crowd responded with jeers and booing.

A father and son standing in front of the statue of Rafael Nadal. © Allaoua Meziani, FRANCE 24

With temperatures at 22 degrees and expected to reach 26 in the afternoon, the water vending stands were busy.

In a men’s tournament without 14-times winner and defending champion Rafael Nadal who is injured, 2021 runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas will be the biggest name in action on Sunday.

“Of course, it’s a big miss. My son really wanted to see Nadal but now we will be supporting (Carlos) Alcaraz,” said Gerald Furst, who runs a tennis club in the south of France.

Images of Nadal are found everywhere at Roland Garros.
Images of Nadal are found everywhere at Roland Garros. © Pierre René-Worms, FMM

“I like (Novak) Djokovic as well, he’s an amazing player. I believe it will be a semi-final between Alcaraz and Djokovic. We want to see this match.”

Serbian Djokovic is bidding for his third French Open title.

“It’s very bad for the tournament that Nadal is not there. We hope he’ll be here next year. I’m happy a new guy will be the champion, but for me Nadal is the best on this surface,” said Ragis Poiet.

“Djokovic will find it difficult if he plays Alcaraz but I think he will be able to win.”

(FRANCE 24 with Reuters)

This story originally appeared on France24

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