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Russians win but rain wreaks havoc
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Russian players Svetlana Kuznetsova and Dinara Safina advanced to the second round of the French Open yesterday before rain again disrupted play at Roland Garros.

The start of play was delayed by 2 hours, 50 minutes, and then the fourth-seeded Kuznetsova was able to beat Aiko Nakamura of Japan 6-2, 6-3 before the rain returned.

Safina, seeded 13th, defeated Kateryna Bondarenko of the Ukraine 6-1, 6-3.

Each of the first three days of the French Open have been affected by rain, but yesterday's weather was the worst so far. It led to the postponement of at least 20 matches, including top-seeded Maria Sharapova's encounter against Evgeniya Rodina.

Later yesterday, Rafael Nadal was scheduled to begin his quest for a fourth straight French Open title against Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil. Nikolay Davydenko won the first two sets of his match before play was halted early in the third, and Lleyton Hewitt and 2003 champion Juan Carlos Ferrero were scheduled to play later.

On the women's side, two-time grand slam champion Amelie Mauresmo was in the second set against Olga Savchuk on center court when the rain returned.

More rain was expected throughout the day in Paris.

A total of 72 first round matches were due to be played, after rain on Monday had left only 26 of the planned 58 ties completed.

The last time a full day's play was lost at the French Open was on the first Tuesday of the 2000 championships, the first time there had been such a washout since 1925.

The backlog was cleared the following day when 21 courts were called into action.

In 2007, only seven of 24 scheduled matches on the opening Sunday were played with the following Monday even more depressing with just seven of 64 planned first round ties completed.

On the Tuesday, the backlog was virtually cleared with 82 matches programmed on 18 courts, the most ties ever scheduled in a single day at Roland Garros.

The players were remaining stoic despite the conditions.

American eighth seed Venus Williams, who needed almost two hours to see off Israel's Tzipora Obziler 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 on Monday to reach the second round, was happy to get the tie finished just as the rain got worse.

"It was strange with the raining and then no raining. It was just important to concentrate, because you can only beat your opponent," said Williams.

"You can't beat the weather. So if it rains, it rains. But thankfully I got through before it started."

Also on Monday, Roger Federer added another win to his already burgeoning claycourt record this season.

Federer improved to 16-3 on clay in 2008 by beating Sam Querrey 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 in the first round, where he is trying to become only the sixth man to complete a career grand slam.

"I've played well all claycourt season long," said the top-ranked Federer, who is 27-7 overall this year. "Didn't have many hiccups really, and I have plenty of matches. That was my goal as well."

Federer came into the French Open with only one title this year, which he won on clay. His seven losses are more than he had for the entire season in 2004, '05 or '06.

Third-seeded Jelena Jankovic also advanced, beating Monica Niculescu 7-6 (3), 6-2, and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia, the youngest person in the singles at 16, beat Maria Emilia Salerni of Argentina 6-1, 6-1.

(Agencies via Shanghai Daily May 28, 2008)

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