PARIS: Defending champion Maria Sharapova reached the French Open second round on Monday (Tuesday in Manila) but was jeered by fans after she refused to carry out an on-court TV interview.
Second-seeded Sharapova defeated Estonian Kaia Kanepi 6-2, 6-4 to set up a clash against Russian Fed Cup teammate Vitalia Diatchenko.
But the 27-year-old irritated the Philippe Chatrier Court crowd by refusing to carry out the traditional on-court television pleasantries, claiming her voice was not strong enough.
She said she had been suffering from a cold in a worrying repeat of last year when she was also sick in the run-up to Paris.
“I totally understand that everyone usually does the interviews and answers a few questions,” said Sharapova, who was also champion in 2012 and runner-up in 2013.
“It’s absolutely normal. I’m not making any excuses but I’ve got to do what I have to do.”
There were no such problems for British third seed Andy Murray, twice a semifinalist, who took his clay record this season to 11-0 with a 6-3, 6-3, 6-1 win over Argentine ‘lucky loser’ Facundo Arguello.
Murray, with claycourt titles in Munich and Madrid, goes on to face either Canadian world number 53 Vasek Pospisil or Portugal’s 44th-ranked Joao Sousa.
“Always the first round of the majors is tough and it was quite windy and difficult conditions at the start,” said Murray.
Sloane Stephens ended 15th seed and fellow American Venus Williams’s 18th French Open at the first-round stage with a 7-6 (7/5), 6-1 victory.
With her 35th birthday in three weeks’ time, the defeat is certain to place a question mark over the future of seven-time major winner Williams, who was runner-up to sister Serena in 2002 but has not gone beyond the fourth round since 2006.
“Sometimes things don’t work out the way you would like,” said Venus.
“I have a little while now between tournaments, so I will get ready for the grass at Wimbledon.”
Ex-world number two and 2012 Wimbledon runner-up Agnieszka Radwanska was also a shock first-round loser.
The Polish 14th seed, a quarter-finalist in 2013, went down 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 to Germany’s Annika Beck, a player she defeated 6-0, 6-0 when they met at Indian Wells last year.
The loss was only the third time in 34 Grand Slam tournaments that 26-year-old Radwanska had lost in the first round.