Victoria Azarenka of Belarus complains about the weather conditions and asks the umpire to stop the first round match of the French Open tennis tournament against Montenegro's Danka Kovinic at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
The road to the 2020 French Open has been anything but ordinary. After a postponement due to the coronavirus pandemic, players have had to compete against more than just one another on the court.
The weather itself has been the most unrelenting opponent for this year's French Open. When qualifying rounds began back on Sept. 21, Paris was recovering from a scorching heat wave. High temperatures for the first two days of play climbed near 26.7 C (80 F), which is more than 5.5 degrees Celsius (10 degrees Fahrenheit) above normal for late-September. Then, on day three of play, the first in a long line of storms to come swept into northern France.
From that third day on, each day of the tournament has recorded measurable rain and lower-than-normal temperatures. High temperatures most days have struggled to reach 14-17 C (upper 50s F to lower 60s F), up to 5.5 degrees Celsius (10 degrees Fahrenheit) colder than normal.
Playing conditions have been miserable for many players so far, and unfortunately for them, there is no end to the wet, chilly weather in sight.
One player, Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, walked off the court during her first round match and complaining of chilly conditions, according to AFP.
"It's too cold. I live in Florida. I'm used to hot weather," she said. And Azarenka wasn't the only player bemoaning the weather conditions.
"It's ridiculous, it's too cold," Montenegro's Danka Kovinic said after her first-round match was interrupted, according to France 24.
After a fast-moving storm brought a quick-hitting round of rain to much of northern and western France overnight Wednesday, Storm Alex took aim at the country Thursday night and Friday. Storm Alex will likely be the most potent in a string of disruptive storms to impact France during the grand slam event.
Rain and wind from Storm Alex expanded over all of France Thursday night and continued into the weekend.
While Storm Alex will begin to pull north on Monday, rounds of blustery rain will continue across northwestern Europe through the beginning of the week. However, pockets of heavier rain will be limited to the United Kingdom.
For Paris itself, rounds of rain and gusty winds can be expected into the beginning of the week. However, rainfall amounts and wind speed will be toned down compared to when Storm Alex arrived earlier in the week.
Sep 30, 2020; Paris, France; Simona Halep (ROU) in action during her match against Irina-Camelia Begu (ROU) on day four at Stade Roland Garros. (Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports)
While many may be quick to place the blame for this cold, blustery weather solely on the late September start, it is important to note these conditions are unusual even for early autumn.
Despite the tournament being separated by months from its typical timeframe, the average daytime high temperatures for late May and late September are rather similar. From late May into early June, temperatures will typically climb into the 20-21 C range (upper 60s F to near 70 F) in Paris. In late September and early October, temperatures will still reach the 18-20 C range (middle to upper 60s F).
"Sometimes cool, ugly weather makes an appearance while the French Open is played during its typical time in late May into early June. But with it [typically] just weeks away from the summer solstice, the high sun angle can warm things up much more quickly," AccuWeather Meteorologist Joe Lundberg said.
The French Open is usually the second major tennis tournament of the sport's calendar, following the Australia Open in January, and preceding Wimbledon (late June into mid-July) and the U.S. Open (late August into (mid-September). Wimbledon was the only major tournament to be cancelled this year due to the pandemic.
What little sunshine does manage to peek through an overall cloudy week for those at Roland-Garros will not result in much progress toward pleasant playing conditions.
"With it now past the autumnal equinox and much lower sun angles, it is much harder for the sun to help with this unusually chilly air mass for this time of the year," Lundberg added.
Fortunately, this year's tournament does have some protection from the elements as the main court at Roland-Garros is now equipped with a retractable roof. Prior to this year, the French Open was the only major tennis tournament not to have a roof over its primary court, the famed Philippe-Chatrier court. However, not every court at the Roland-Garros is covered.
View of the empty seats on Suzanne Lenglen court as rain suspended most matches in the first round of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, Monday, Sept. 28, 2020. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
In addition to the impact of the cool and wet conditions on the players themselves, the clay courts at Roland-Garros are extremely prone to changing weather. Clay itself is rather porous and can absorb water quite easily. Even slightly damp conditions on the court can impact the movement of the tennis ball. As the courts absorb water, the height of the bounce of the tennis ball will decrease, which could lead to more errors.
For players wondering when these difficult playing conditions will improve, the answer may not be what they want to hear. Forecasters are monitoring the potential for another large storm system to swing through northwest Europe later in the week.
Keep checking back on AccuWeather.com and stay tuned to the AccuWeather Network on DirecTV, Frontier and Verizon Fios.