Rain brings chaos to French Open

Torrential rain brought chaos to the French Open on Tuesday, with six hours of play lost and title favourites Maria Sharapova and Rafael Nadal amongst the victims of the deluge.

Only 13 of the day’s planned 72 ties were finished in the three hours of play possible between the downpours, leaving 59 of 128 first-round meetings still to be completed.

Sadly for the soaked and fed-up fans, one of those matches rescheduled to Wednesday was top seed Sharapova’s firs-round encounter with fellow Russian Evgeniya Rodina.

Nadal, the triple men’s champion, did manage to get on court but was 1-1 against Brazilian qualifier Thomaz Bellucci when the rain returned for the last time after only nine minutes of action.

The second-seeded Spaniard is bidding to join Bjorn Borg as the only man to win four successive men’s titles.

Russian fourth seeds Nikolay Davydenko and Svetlana Kuznetsova managed to complete their first rounds with Davydenko, a semifinalist in 2007, easing past Sweden’s 2002 Australian Open champion Thomas Johansson 6-3, 6-3, 6-3.

He could face compatriot, and former number one, Marat Safin should the volatile Russian get past Monaco’s Jean-Rene Lisnard.

“If Marat plays well he can be very good. He hits the ball hard, always makes winners,” said Davydenko. “But sometimes he isn’t so good.”

Argentine 13th seed Juan Monaco, who came into Roland Garros with 16 match wins on clay this season, second only to Nadal, was a surprise first-round loser, going out 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 to Sweden’s Robin Soderling.

There were no such problems, however, for Swiss ninth seed Stanislas Wawrinka, who eased past Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-3, 6-4, 6-3.

In the women’s event, Kuznetsova, the 2006 runner-up to the now-retired Justine Henin, saw off Japan’s Aiko Nakamura 6-2, 6-3 and will face either America’s Vania King or French wildcard Violette Huck.

Kuznetsova, a former US Open champion, took just over an hour to see off world 71 Nakamura as she tries to fulfil Henin’s prediction that she could be the likely winner of the 2008 title.

“She told me that this could be my year and that really cheered me up,” said the 22-year-old, who was happy to have finished her match in between the deluge.

“I think it’s very important, and I’m really happy.
I have the rest of the day to relax and take it easy.”

Russian 13th seed Dinara Safina was also safely through, seeing off Kateryna Bondarenko of Ukraine 6-1, 6-3 to set up a clash with either Croatia’s Karolina Sprem or Slovakian qualifier Magdalena Rybarikova.

“I’m really happy that when I finished, then it started to rain,” said Safina.

French 22nd seed Amelie Mauresmo, a former world number one who has consistently crumbled in front of her home fans throughout her 14-year Roland Garros career, survived a few characteristic wobbles before beating Ukraine’s Olga Savchuk 7-5, 4-6, 6-1.

Japanese veteran Ai Sugiyama, the 31st seed, equalled the record of 56 consecutive Grand Slam appearances and celebrated by beating Alla Kudryavtseva of Russia 6-1, 2-6, 6-3.—Sapa-AFP