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Rediff News  All News  » Sports » French Open: No lunchtime hiccups for Kuznetsova, Venus advances too

French Open: No lunchtime hiccups for Kuznetsova, Venus advances too

Last updated on: May 24, 2010 09:01 IST

Svetlana KuznetsovaDazzling blue skies and soaring temperatures greeted the hordes of spectators snaking towards Roland Garros on Sunday as the first of 15 days of sporting theatre served up some tasty appetisers for the drama to come.

The wine corks were already popping in the chic bars sprinkled across this leafy quadrant of Parisian real estate as women's defending champion Svetlana Kuznetsova walked out on Philippe Chatrier Court, and after a groggy start she reached the second round with plenty of time to shower for lunch.

Kuznetsova's form has been terrible this season, particularly on clay, but after losing the first three games to Romanian Sorana Cirstea she eased through 6-3, 6-1.

"I knew this moment had to pass because I deserve better than that, and I worked harder than these results. I was just concerned about when it was going to pass," Kuznetsova, who had managed just one claycourt win this season, told reporters.

The second major of the year is unique with its Sunday start and with a slimmed down schedule and no Roger Federer or Rafa Nadal in action the opening day has the feel of a light entree before the beefy action to come over the next fortnight.

That does not stop the crowds, nor the vocal ticket touts, flocking towards a venue, which, while beginning to show its age with its dated concrete structures, still ranks as one of the most appealing places to watch tennis.

There was plenty of French interest on the menu for home fans although those opting for one extra glass of chilled wine would have missed wildcard Laurent Recouderc's predictable demolition by last year's men's runner-up Robin Soderling.

The Swede's brutal forehand, which bludgeoned Nadal to a first ever Roland Garros defeat last year, was far too hot for the 25-year-old journeyman who lost the first nine games before eeking a modicum of self-respect in a 6-0, 6-2, 6-3 loss.

Soderling, the fifth seed, walloped 46 winners, leaving Recouderc swishing at air and threatening to wreak havoc with the beautifully-arranged geraniums lining the rectangle of sun-blasted red clay.

"It's always nice to have a quick match in the early rounds. I got to hit a few balls. We had a few rallies, so it was a good match," the quietly spoken Swede, whose sensational run last year was ended by Federer in the final, told reporters.

There was better news for French hopes in the match that followed.

Aravane Rezai, who beat Justine Henin, Jelena Jankovic and Venus Williams to the win the Madrid title last week, crushed Canada's Heidi El Tabakh 6-1, 6-1 with a dazzling display that matched an outfit featuring golden go-faster stripes.

Latvian dark horse Ernests Gulbis was the day's first surprise casualty, the 23rd seed damaging a hamstring while doing the splits against Frenchman Julien Benneteau and retiring at two sets down.

There were no such worries for Croatia's Marin Cilic, the 10th seed, who beat Brazil's Ricardo Mello 6-1 3-6 6-3 6-1.

World number two Venus Williams, looking for her first French Open singles title, took the first step towards a maiden French Open title when she outgunned Patty Schnyder 6-3, 6-3 in the first round on Sunday.

Venus, who lost the 2002 final to sister Serena, could have expected a trickier match against Schnyder but the wily Swiss has been struggling with injury and she eased to the opening set in 32 minutes on Court Suzanne Lenglen.

Wearing a risque dark outfit that resembled a nightdress, Venus broke in game eight of the second to lead 5-3 and she eventually served out for victory in an hour and 20 minutes, sealing the win with a forehand winner.

She now plays Japanese qualifier Kurumi Nara or Arantxa Parra Santonja of Spain for a place in the third round.

Local favourite Jo-Wilfried Tsonga laboured past unheralded German Daniel Brands to reach the second round of the French Open with a marathon 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-7, 7-5 win on Sunday.

Timely drop shots were enough for Brands to unsettle Tsonga early in the match as the eighth-seeded Frenchman dropped the first set before gradually finding his stride to set up a meeting with compatriot Josselin Ouanna.
It was no stroll in the park for Tsonga with Brands benefiting from a string of unforced errors to level by taking the fourth set tiebreak 7-2.

The German saved a match point in the 10th game of the decider, another in the 12th before bowing out when he sent a backhand long after a three-hour and 43-minute battle.

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