Russians cruise on, Mauresmo digs deep

Russians Nikolay Davydenko and Svetlana Kuznetsova stormed into the second round of the French Open on a day marred by torrential rain, as French veteran Amelie Mauresmo battled hard to beat the Ukraine's Olga Savchuk.


AFP - Nikolay Davydenko and Svetlana Kuznetsova led a Russian surge into the French Open second round on Tuesday as torrential rain played havoc at Roland Garros.


Six hours of play was lost on the third day of the second Grand Slam tournament of the season, which meant 38 of the day's planned 72 first round matches were rescheduled to Wednesday.


Sadly for the soaked and fed-up fans, one of those ties was women's top seed Maria Sharapova's first round encounter with fellow Russian Evgeniya Rodina.


Davydenko eased past Sweden's 2002 Australian Open champion Thomas Johansson 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 and could face compatriot, and former number one, Marat Safin should the volatile Russian get past Monaco's Jean-Rene Lisnard.


"If Marat plays well he can be very good. He hits the ball hard, always makes winners," said Davydenko. "But sometimes he isn't so good."


Later Tuesday, and with the rain having relented, Rafael Nadal, the triple champion, was to face Brazilian qualifier Thomaz Bellucci.


The second seeded Spaniard, who has never lost a match here, is bidding to join Bjorn Borg as the only man to win four successive men's titles.


Argentine 13th seed Juan Monaco, who came into Roland Garros with 16 match wins on clay this season, second only to Nadal, was a surprise first round loser going out 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 to Sweden's Robin Soderling.


There were no such problems, however, for Swiss ninth seed Stanislas Wawrinka who eased past Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-3, 6-4, 6-3.


In the women's event, Kuznetsova, the 2006 runner-up to the now-retired Justine Henin, saw off Japan's Aiko Nakamura 6-2, 6-3 and will face either America's Vania King or French wildcard Violette Huck.


Kuznetsova, a former US Open champion, took just over an hour to see off world 71 Nakamura as she tries to fulfill Henin's prediction that she could be the likely winner of the 2008 title.


"She told me that this could be my year and that really cheered me up," said the 22-year-old who was happy to have finished her match in between the deluge.


"I think it's very important, and I'm really happy. I have the rest of the day to relax and take it easy."


Russian 13th seed Dinara Safina was also safely through seeing off Kateryna Bondarenko of Ukraine 6-1, 6-3 to set up a clash with either Croatia's Karolina Sprem or Slovakian qualifier Magdalena Rybarikova.


"I'm really happy that when I finished then it started to rain," said Safina.


French 22nd seed Amelie Mauresmo, a former world number one who has consistently crumbled in front of her home fans throughout her 14-year Roland Garros career, survived a few characteristic wobbles before beating Ukraine's Olga Savchuk 7-5, 4-6, 6-1.


Japanese veteran Ai Sugiyama, the 31st seed, equalled the record of 56 consecutive Grand Slam appearances and celebrated by beating Alla Kudryavtseva of Russia 6-1, 2-6, 6-3.


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