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Mauresmo holds nerve to advance

A photo of Russia's Maria Sharapova graced the cover of the French Open's official daily program Tuesday, which might be considered false advertising.


A photo of Russia's Maria Sharapova graced the cover of the French Open's official daily program Tuesday, which might be considered false advertising.

That's because the No. 1-ranked woman didn't play a single point, forced by the wet weather to wait instead until at least Day 4 of the tournament to begin her quest to complete a career Grand Slam.

Rafael Nadal of Spain played all of two games of his opening match before collecting his things and trundling off centre court, the start of his bid for a fourth consecutive title at the clay-court major halted by one of a series of showers.

Only 13 of 72 scheduled matches were completed, and past major champions Amelie Mauresmo of France and Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia were quite pleased to duck into the second round between drizzles.

Yes, Wimbledon has come to Roland Garros, with rain affecting action on all three days so far and allowing for less than three hours of play Tuesday. While the All England Club is constructing a dome over Centre Court ahead of the 2009 championship, the French tennis federation has said it might build a retractable roof by 2012.

"We definitely would like to have that," said the 22nd-seeded Mauresmo, who overcame nine double-faults and 35 total unforced errors to beat Olga Savchuk of Ukraine 7-5, 4-6, 6-1.

Aleksandra Wozniak of Blainville, Que., and No. 20 Sybille Bammer of Austria had their match postponed until Wednesday.

While it's too early in the tournament for too much concern about fitting everything in, players such as Sharapova or Nadal - whose match originally was on Monday's slate before being postponed the first time, and eventually will resume at 1-1 in the first set - already face the prospect of playing on consecutive days if they proceed through the draw.

Then again, Nadal played for seven days in a row last year at Wimbledon, where he reached the final before losing to No. 1 Roger Federer of Switzerland. So don't expect too much sympathy for the second-seeded Spaniard.

"For Nadal, doesn't matter," said No. 4 Nikolay Davydenko of Russia, who eliminated 2002 Australian Open champion Thomas Johansson of Sweden 6-3, 6-3, 6-3. "He can play today, tomorrow, after tomorrow. . . . It's no problem for him."

Not surprisingly, the only five men's matches that finished were straight-set affairs.

In addition to Davydenko - still at the centre of the ATP's investigation into irregular betting patterns on a match he played in August 2007 - and No. 9 Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland, winners included Mario Ancic of Croatia and Robin Soderling of Sweden.

"It's never easy, a whole day of rain," said Wawrinka, who defeated Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany 6-3, 6-4, 6-3. "Most important is to remain calm, not to stress yourself uselessly, and to be patient."

Ancic - the last man to beat Federer at Wimbledon, all the way back in 2002 - eliminated No. 31 Andreas Seppi of Italy, while Soderling defeated No. 13 Juan Monaco of Argentina.

Five matches that were suspended in progress Monday and resumed Tuesday still weren't finished; they were supposed to continue Wednesday. Five other matches that began Monday didn't even pick up again Tuesday.

Kuznetsova, however, had more than enough time to dispatch 71st-ranked Aiko Nakamura of Japan 6-2, 6-3.

"It was just weird," said the No. 4-seeded Kuznetsova, the 2004 U.S. Open champion and twice a Grand Slam runner-up. "I was starting to imagine it was raining a little bit, and I was, like, 'Oh, I hope we can play.' . . . And thinking about this, I realized I lost first game."

She was beaten in the finals of the 2006 French Open and 2007 U.S. Open by Justine Henin, who won seven Grand Slam titles before abruptly retiring this month at age 25. Her departure makes for a wide-open women's field in Paris.

"I think a really unpredictable tournament can happen," said Kuznetsova, just 2-16 against the Belgian over their careers.

Henin said on the eve of the tournament that she'd like to see Kuznetsova win and even gave her friend a pep talk to that effect.

"I had a short chat with her," Kuznetsova recounted. "She said, 'Come on, maybe it can be your year.' Yeah, she cheered me up, so it's good. So I thank her for that."

Also moving on to the second round with victories Tuesday: No. 13 Dinara Safina of Russia, No. 14 Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland and No. 31 Ai Sugiyama of Japan.

Safina, the younger sister of two-time major champion Marat Safin, was the last woman to play - and to beat - Henin, doing that at the German Open.

"I hope that she just stays happy with this decision and she just goes forward in her life, what she's planning to do," Safina said. "Because . . . I have one brother who also says sometimes that he wants to retire because he says that he has enough of it. But he still plays. But she's, I think, stronger. She said, 'OK, I retired."'

Safin might have told his sibling he's ready to walk away from tennis, but there he was at Roland Garros, playing a first-round match against Jean-Rene Lisnard of Monaco. Safin neither won nor lost Tuesday, though: The match was suspended by rain in the third set.

 
 
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