SHOWS: PARIS, FRANCE (SEPTEMBER 25, 2020) (FFT - SEE RESTRICTIONS BEFORE USE)
1. WORLD NUMBER ONE NOVAK DJOKOVIC PRACTICING ON COURT PHILLIPE CHATRIER WITH THE ROOF CLOSED
2. DJOKOVIC PRACTICING
3. DJOKOVIC'S FOOTWORK
4. VARIOUS OF DJOKOVIC PRACTICING
5. DJOKOVIC'S COACH MARIAN VAJDA WATCHING DJOKOVIC PRACTICING
6. COURT BEING WORKED ON TO SMOOTHEN IT OUT
7. (SOUNDBITE) (English) THREE-TIME DEFENDING CHAMPION AND 12-TIME WINNER, RAFAEL NADAL, ON IF THIS WILL BE HIS TOUGHEST FRENCH OPEN, SAYING:
"Yeah, it's a completely different event today. The weather is super extreme to play a tournament, the ball is different here. I had the challenges I think bigger than ever, but that's how it is. Situation is difficult in the world today, so at least happy to be back here in the most important place in my tennis career without a doubt. So, just trying to enjoy as much as I can, build the things with the best attitude possible and then let's see what's going on."
8. WHITE FLASH
9. (SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. OPEN CHAMPION AND TWO-TIME FRENCH OPEN FINALIST, DOMINIC THIEM, ON ARRIVING AS A GRAND SLAM CHAMPION, SAYING:
"It doesn't feel that different to be honest. I mean, of course, I've achieved one of my biggest career goals, so lot of pressure has gone from myself. That's an advantage I guess, but tennis is a sport where everybody begins from zero basically every week, so I don't have any bonus just because I've won U.S. Open two weeks ago. Everybody is going to be super motivated and my goal is to be at the top of my game again from the first point on."
10. VARIOUS OF DANIIL MEDVEDEV PRACTICING ON COURT PHILLIPE CHATRIER WITH THE ROOF CLOSED
11. (SOUNDBITE) (English) FOURTH SEED, DANIIL MEDVEDEV, ON IF THE HEAVY CONDITIONS FORECAST OVER THE NEXT TWO WEEKS WILL SUIT HIS GAME, SAYING:
"It's a bit colder for sure, raining a lot and I think it's going to be next two weeks, so courts will be heavy, balls will be heavy. I think it's actually quite good for me, for I would be talking about hard courts I would probably not like it, but on clay I think it's going to favour my game. After everybody's here to play, so we have to deal with the conditions. Just go out there and try to win."
12. SIMONA HALEP PRACTICING ON COURT PHILLIPE CHATRIER WITH THE ROOF CLOSED
13. VARIOUS OF HALEP PRACTICING
14. (SOUNDBITE) (English) TOP SEED AND 2018 CHAMPION, SIMONA HALEP, ON WHY PLAYING A FRENCH OPEN IN SEPTEMBER IS SPECIAL FOR HER, SAYING:
"Well it's special because it will be my birthday first time in Paris and second is the fact that we have the chance to play the Grand Slam and to play Roland Garros, which is my favourite Grand Slam. I'm ready to start it. I'm excited and hopefully I won't play Sunday because I would like to chill for my birthday."
15. VARIOUS OF VICTORIA AZARENKA PRACTICING
16. (SOUNDBITE) (English) TWO-TIME GRAND SLAM CHAMPION, VICTORIA AZARENKA, ON HER QUICK TURNAROUND FROM FINISHING RUNNER-UP AT THE U.S. OPEN TWO WEEKS AGO, SAYING:
"It's awfully too quick to transition, but I'm happy to be able to play actually right now. You know, I feel it's right now, it feels a little bit different than years before, but it's still good to have an opportunity to play for sure."
17. WHITE FLASH
18. (SOUNDBITE) (English) 2016 CHAMPION, GARBINE MUGURUZA, ON THE WEATHER EXPECTED OVER THE NEXT TWO WEEKS, SAYING:
"Yeah, definitely a little bit more colder, but I remember other years, which it was also cold and rainy and all of that, so I think we're, everybody's a little bit prepared to know that, yeah, it's going to be a tricky time of the year, but the positive thing is that we are here, it's happening, it's amazing that we can play another Grand Slam. So, I take that as the right mindset."
STORY: World number one Novak Djokovic began fine tuning his preparations for Roland Garros with a practice session on Friday (September 25) on a closed Court Phillipe Chatrier due to the rainy conditions which are expected to affect the tournament throughout.
Djokovic, the 2016 champion, arrives in the French capital off the back of Rome Masters glory, which came following his undignified U.S. Open default exit for hitting a line judge in the throat inadvertently during his fourth-round match against Pablo Carreno Busta.
The incident in New York has been the only blemish in a year in which Djokovic has assembled a 33-1 record and deprived him of the chance to reach 18 Grand Slam titles, one behind Rafael Nadal who will be gunning for an astonishing 13th French Open crown.
Nadal, the current three-time defending champion, believes this could be his toughest defensive yet due to everything from the heavy conditions, new balls and competing at his most successful tournament during the coronavirus pandemic.
"The weather is super extreme; the ball is different. I have challenges bigger than ever. Situation is difficult in the world today, so at least happy to be back here in the most important place in my tennis career."
Dominic Thiem, fresh off his maiden Grand Slam triumph at the U.S. Open two weeks ago, meets Croatian veteran Marin Cilic in his opener and said he felt no different playing as a Slam champion, instead revealing it came as more of a relief.
On the women's side, top seed and 2018 champion Simona Halep begins her campaign for a third Grand Slam title overall against Spain's Sara Sorribes Tormo, while recent U.S. Open finalist Victoria Azarenka has a first round tie against Danka Kovinic of Montenegro.
2016 champion Garbine Muguruza meanwhile is in action against Tamara Zidansek and believes that the players are prepared for the cold conditions, as in past years there have been chilly days.
The tournament, which was rescheduled from May 24-June 7, begins on Sunday (September 27).
(Production: Stefan Haskins)