Nadal, Safin in cruise control

Rafael Nadal, bidding for an historic fifth successive French Open title, swept into the second round on Monday while women’s top seed Dinara Safina engineered a brutal centre court humiliation.

Top seed and world number one Nadal, sporting a bright pink shirt, saw off plucky Brazilian qualifier Marcos Daniel 7-5, 6-4, 6-3 to take his Roland Garros career record to 29 wins in 29 matches.

He will now face either Igor Kunitsyn or Teimuraz Gabashvili, both Russians, for a place in the last 32.

“The first match is always difficult. I was a little nervous because this tournament is very special to me, but I feel good,” said Nadal, who arrived in Paris having lost his 33-match claycourt winning streak to Roger Federer in Madrid.

World number two Federer, the runner-up to Nadal in the last three finals, faces Spain’s Alberto Martin later on Monday with the Swiss beginning his 11th attempt to win an elusive French Open title and complete a career Grand Slam.

Women’s world number one Safina handed out a 6-0, 6-0 mauling to Anne Keothavong as the Russian’s howitzer hitting ruthlessly exposed the Briton’s glaring weaknesses.

Safina, the 2008 runner-up and bidding to win a maiden Grand Slam title, will face compatriot Vitalia Diatchenko, a qualifier, for a place in the last 32.

Keothavong, the world number 48, had come into the tournament buoyed by her performance in Warsaw last week where she became the first British woman in 26 years to make the semi-finals of a WTA claycourt event.

But her sun-blessed Roland Garros debut turned into a nightmare as Safina showed no mercy, racing to victory in just over an hour on the back of three breaks of serve in each set.

The 25-year-old Keothavong had the minor satisfaction of saving four match points before the world number one secured victory with another pinpoint, down-the-line forehand.

It was one of 16 winners for Safina compared to just two for the hapless Briton.

“I’m not going to go away and slit my wrists,” said Keothavong.

“You have to find a way to laugh about it. What else is there to do? I’m sure there will be jokes about it, but I can take it.”

Safina said it was hard to feel sympathy for her opponent.

“When we shook hands, she said: ‘At least you could have given me one game’,” revealed the Russian.

Also making progress were third seed Venus Williams, the 2002 runner-up, who saw off Amercian compatriot Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6-1, 4-6, 6-2.

China’s Zheng Jie, the 15th seed and Thai veteran Tamarine Tanasugarn kept Asian interest alive, but Japanese 33-year-old Ai Sugiyama, playing in her 15th Roland Garros, went out 6-3, 6-2 to France’s Aravane Rezai.

Maria Sharapova is due to make her first Grand Slam appearance since Wimbledon last year when she tackles Anastasiya Yakimova of Belarus.

Elsewhere, in the men’s first round, Russian 10th seed Nikolay Davydenko, twice a semi-finalist, eased past Austria’s Stefan Koubek 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 with compatriot Mikhail Youzhny also advancing with a 7-6 (7/2), 6-1, 6-4 win over Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller.—AFP

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