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Nadal powers through as Sharapova struggles

Top seed Maria Sharapova stood on the brink of a shock defeat before dispatching her first-round opponent in three sets, while Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic weathered the fierce Roland Garros winds to win in straight sets.

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AFP - As a vicious swirling wind, which turned the famous claycourts here into a dustbowl, replaced the torrential downpours of the previous day, Russian golden girl Maria Sharapova toiled for two and a half hours before squeezing past teenage compatriot, and world number 104, Evgeniya Rodina 6-1, 3-6, 8-6.

Sharapova, who needs a French Open title to complete a career Grand Slam, served up 17 double faults and twice had to serve to stay in the match.

"It's dry and you've got sand blowing in your face. So it feels like a hardcourt, but then you feel like you're in a desert," said the world number one who was a semi-finalist here in 2007.

"Apart from eating and breathing sand, it was great."

Sharapova will take on American qualifier Bethanie Mattek for a place in the last 32.

Her closest rival for the title, second seed Serb Ana Ivanovic, cruised into the third round with a 6-1, 6-2 win over the Czech Republic's Lucie Safarova.

Ivanovic, a semi-finalist in 2007, next plays Danish 30th seed Caroline Wozniacki.

Triple men's champion Nadal extended his perfect Roland Garros record as he took a step closer to emulating Bjorn Borg as the only four-in-a-row winner.

The 21-year-old Spaniard notched up his 22nd win in 22 matches here and his 109th win in his last 111 claycourt career outings with a 7-5, 6-3, 6-1 opening round victory over Brazilian qualifier Thomaz Bellucci, a match which had been scheduled for Monday.

The second seed, who has defeated Roger Federer in the last two finals, will now face French qualifier Nicolas Devilder for a place in the last 32.

"The conditions were very bad and the wind was terrible," said Nadal.

"I had to wait two days because of the rain and could only practice for 20 minutes so it's difficult to come on to the court and find a good rhythm."

Third seed Novak Djokovic, the Australian Open champion, wasted no time in reaching the third round with a 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 win over Miguel-Angel Jaen of Spain, the world 264.

He will play the winner of the tie between Wayne Odesnik of the United States and Lee Hyung-Taik of South Korea.

"It's always good to have easy matches in the tournaments like this one today," said Djokovic.

"It's a really long tournament, and if you have a chance to play a short match to save the energy, that's great."

Spain's Juan Carlos Ferrero, the 2003 champion and 23rd seed, was a first round casualty when he pulled out injured against Brazil's Marcos Daniel.

The Spaniard, who had never lost his opener in his eight previous visits, won the first set 7-6 (7/5) and was 2-2 in the second when he called it quits with a thigh injury.

Australia's 25th seed Lleyton Hewitt showed no signs of his recent hip injury when he brushed aside France's Nicolas Mahut 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 to reach the second round.

The former world number one will next face America's Mardy Fish.

Also safely through was Spanish fifth seed David Ferrer who enjoyed a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 win over Belgium's Steve Darcis and will take on French veteran Fabrice Santoro.

Former world number one Marat Safin, a semi-finalist in 2002, reached the second round and a clash with Davis Cup teammate Nikolay Davydenko with a 6-7 (5/7), 6-1, 6-3, 6-2 win over Monaco qualifier Jean-Rene Lisnard.

In the women's draw, Russian sixth seen Anna Chakvetadze beat Spain's Nuria Llagostera Vives 6-3, 5-7, 6-1 and next faces Kaia Kanepi.

Her compatriot, and seventh seed Elena Dementieva, the 2004 runner-up, beat compatriot Vera Dushevina 6-7 (6/8), 6-0, 6-2 and goes on to face Poland's Marta Domachowska.

However, French ninth seed Marion Bartoli, last year's Wimbledon runner-up, was knocked out in the first round by Australia's Casey Dellacqua 6-7 (4/7), 6-3, 6-2.

Dellacqua faces another Frenchwoman Nathalie Dechy for a place in the last 32.

Later Wednesday, fifth seed Serena Williams, the 2002 champion, faces France's Mathilde Johansson for a place in the last 32.
 

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