PARIS: Defending champion Maria Sharapova reached the French Open second round on Monday 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 semi-finalist, 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.
“Maybe I’m getting older,” said the tearful Pole.
World number four Tomas Berdych, a 2010 semi-finalist, continued his solid claycourt season with a 6-0, 7-5, 6-3 win over Japanese qualifier Yoshihito Nishioka, the world number 146.
Berdych will now face 36-year-old Davis Cup-winning teammate Radek Stepanek, who became the oldest man to win a match at Roland Garros since 38-year-old Jimmy Connors in 1991 when he saw off Croatian journeyman Ivan Dodig 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 6-1.
Spain’s 11th seed Feliciano Lopez was the biggest men’s casualty when he lost to Russian world number 74 Teymuraz Gabashvili, 6-3, 7-6 (11/9), 6-3.
Australia saw their three brightest prospects all make it to the second round.
Nineteen-year-old wildcard Thanasi Kokkinakis defeated Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvili 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/4), 6-2 while 27th seed Bernard Tomic saw off Italy’s Luca Vanni 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Kokkinakis and Tomic will face off for a place in the third round where top seed Novak Djokovic will likely be waiting.
Nick Kyrgios, the 29th-seeded Australian who beat Roger Federer in Madrid earlier this month, eased past Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan 6-3, 6-4, 6-3.
Spanish eighth seed Carla Suarez Navarro, a quarter-finalist in 2008 and 2014, beat Romania’s Monica Niculescu 6-2, 6-2.
German 11th seed Angelique Kerber, the champion on clay in Charleston and Stuttgart, needed just 50 minutes to brush aside Timea Babos of Hungary 6-0, 6-1.
Former world number one Victoria Azarenka, who missed last year’s Roland Garros through injury, marked her return by beating Spain’s María-Teresa Torró-Flor 6-2, 6-1.
Croatia’s Ana Konjuh, the youngest woman in the draw at 17, made the next round with a 6-1, 6-4 win over Russian qualifier Margarita Gasparyan.
Meanwhile, a record was set in the clash between Denisa Allertova of the Czech Republic and Britain’s Johanna Konta.
Their first set tiebreak, which went 19/17 in favour of the Czech, was the longest in tournament history.