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Seeds tumble at French Open before rain falls
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Roland Garros seeds David Nalbandian and James Blake were sent crashing out of the French Open at the second-round stage yesterday.

If the seventh-seeded Blake's 7-6 (2), 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 loss to Ernests Gulbis of Latvia was only a minor upset, given his dislike for clay, sixth seed Nalbandian's 3-6, 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 collapse at the hands of French wildcard Jeremy Chardy was a shocker.

Following their exits, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal got their second-round games underway but the action did not last long as heavy rain sent players and fans scurrying for cover.

At that stage defending champion Nadal was a set and 5-0 up against France's Nicolas Devilder, while top seed Federer was level 5-5 with Albert Montanes of Spain having saved two set points just before the interruption.

The burly Nalbandian had been touted as one of the main obstacles in the way of a third straight final between Nadal and Federer even though his form of late had been poor.

He raced into a two-set lead, but then Chardy, the world 145, playing in only his sixth ATP Tour-level event at the age of 21, stepped up the pace and dominated exchanges from the baseline.

"For me this is the best match I've ever played - a top 10 in a Grand Slam," Chardy said.

"Even I said it was not possible. He never loses before the quarterfinals so I am surprised."

Nalbandian blamed his alarming slump on a painful muscle in his side.

"I started good and then I had a problem with this muscle so I couldn't play my best all the way," he said.

Chardy's win brought some relief to slumping home hopes at Roland Garros and he next goes up against Dmitry Tursunov of Russia with a place in the last 16 beckoning.

Blake had been the flag-bearer of an American revival at the French Open, but he was always in trouble up against Gulbis, the first Latvian to play at the top level in tennis.

"I felt like I could have won this match and had better success here," the 28-year-old Blake said after failing to match his run into the third round here in 2006.

"Now I have to forget about this and move forward and figure out what happened in time for the grass-court and hard-court season."

In the women's tournament, third seed Jelena Jankovic reached the third round, but saw her hopes of lifting a first Grand Slam hit by a painful injury to her right forearm and elbow.

The 23-year-old Serb defeated Croatian-born New Zealander Marina Erakovic 6-2, 7-6 (5), but she needed extensive treatment to relieve the pain halfway through the second set.

"The pain started at the beginning of the second set and it was getting worse and worse," Jankovic said of her injury.

"The balls were heavier and from hitting a lot of them my arm got very tight. I started having pain and it is swollen. The trainer came on and helped me get to the end."

There were no such problems for Venus Williams, who powered past Tunisian qualifier Selima Sfar 6-2, 6-4 to join sister Serena in the third round. They could potentially meet in the semifinals.

The French suffered a major casualty when Amelie Mauresmo had another Roland Garros nightmare in losing 6-3, 6-4 to Spanish qualifier Carla Suarez. It was her worst performance since losing in the first round in 2001 and left more question marks over her career.

There was some relief, though, from promising 18-year-old Alize Cornet, who finished off a 6-0, 4-6, 6-4 win over Giselo Dulko of Argentina in a tie held over from late Wednesday.

Last up on the Court, Suzanne Lenglen was scheduled to be women's top seed Maria Sharapova, who came within two points of losing in the first round on Wednesday to Russian teen Evgeniya Rodina before scraping through in three sets.

The world No 1 was drawn against Bethanie Mattek of the United States who had won just two games in her previous 10 Grand Slam tournament appearances.

(AFP via China Daily May 30, 2008)

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