Another record falls to Nadal

TOP seed Rafael Nadal last night broke another French Open record as he stayed on course for a fifth successive title with a routine straight-sets victory over Teimuraz Gabashvili in the second round yesterday.

The Spaniard won 6-1 6-4 6-2 on Suzanne Lenglen court to set an all-time record of 30 straight triumphs at Roland Garros, surpassing Chris Evert’s run of 29 which came in the women’s singles between 1974-81.

The 22-year-old Mallorcan was again far from his best, just as in his first-round win over Marcos Daniel on Monday, but he stayed consistent and had far too much in his locker for his gritty Russian opponent.

Former world number one Lleyton Hewitt, who comfortably defeated Andrey Golubev in three sets, will be Nadal’s next opponent.

Earlier, Frenchman Fabrice Santoro bid an emotional farewell to Roland Garros following his first-round loss to Christophe Rochus.

The popular 36-year-old, playing his 20th and last French Open, could not turn around a match that had to be carried over from Tuesday night after bad light stopped play with the Belgian leading 6-3 6-1 3-6 5-3.

Santoro’s dream ended after eight minutes of action yesterday, Rochus clinching the fourth set 6-4.

Andy Murray is relieved his title hopes are still intact after he survived a mid-match slump to defeat Potito Starace in the second round.

The British number one was a 6-3 2-6 7-5 6-4 winner against the Italian on Philippe Chatrier court, setting up a clash with unseeded Janko Tipsarevic.

But he lost his way in the second and third sets, Starace – the world number 104 – winning 11 out of 13 games as the Scot imploded.

Murray managed to recover from 5-1 down in that third set to win six games in a row and lay the platform for his hard-fought victory.

“I managed to turn it around by playing a little bit more aggressive. I just went for my shots,” said Murray.

Tipsarevic was one of the players to upset a seed yesterday, the Serbian knocking out Feliciano Lopez, the 28th seed, with a four-set victory.

Another was France’s Arnaud Clement, who beat 21st seed Dmitry Tursunov 6-3 3-6 6-4 6-1.

Meanwhile, Maria Sharapova relied on her famous battling qualities as she came from a break down in the deciding set to oust fellow Russian Nadia Petrova in a riveting French Open second-round match yesterday.

Sharapova, who has plummeted down the world rankings to 102 after missing close to a year with a shoulder injury, was behind 4-2 in the third set but recovered to claim a 6-2 1-6 8-6 victory against the 11th seed.

It was 22-year-old Sharapova at her tenacious best and she said: “This was a great match where I had to fight my way through many, many challenges, and I did. This type of match is really important for me, and for my game.

“I am spending a little more time out there than I want to but I am learning so many new things as well.”

Earlier, top seed Dinara Safina maintained her stunning early form at Roland Garros by making short work of fellow Russian Vitalia Diatchenko to breeze into the third round, trouncing her compatriot 6-1 6-1.

“I’m doing the basics right,” said Safina, who could meet 2008 champ Ana Ivanovic in the quarter-finals.

“It’s a good start to the tournament, a bit different to last year.”

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the 27th seed and another player from Russia, sealed a third-round date with Safina with a 6-2 7-6 (7/2) win against France’s Julie Coin.

Ivanovic is also showing decent form as she bids to defend the title she claimed by beating Safina in straight sets in last year’s final.

The Serbian, seeded eighth, swept aside the challenge of Thailand’s Tamarine Tanasugarn to win 6-1 6-2 and set up a meeting with 32nd seed Iveta Benesova.

“This was a good match to try some things out,” said Ivanovic.

“I think my serve is getting more aggressive, which I’m happy about.”

Discounting Sharapova’s win over Petrova, the biggest surprise of the day came on Court Seven, where 15th seed Jie Zheng was upset by Portuguese 16-year-old Michelle Larcher De Brito, a qualifier.

While Dominika Cibulkova (20), Agnes Szavay (29) and Na Li (25) were comfortable seeded winners, Belarus’ Victoria Azarenka, the ninth seed, was forced to battle before overcoming Kristina Barrois 7-6 (7/1) 7-5.

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