Defending champion Myskina makes unwanted history in Paris

THE role of defending French Open champion weighed on Anastasia Myskina, as did her mother’s illness. And so her bid to repeat last year’s success ended in record time.

The No 5-seeded Russian became the first defending champion at Roland Garros to be eliminated in the opening round, losing yesterday to Spain’s Maria Sanchez Lorenzo 6-4, 4-6, 6-0.

Myskina was a surprise winner in 2004 when she became the first Russian woman to claim a Grand Slam title. This year she arrived in Paris with a modest record of 11-9, including losses in her past three matches, and she spoke tearfully on the eve of the tournament about her mother, who has been seriously ill.

When asked if she was able to put those emotions aside and think clearly during the match, a sad-eyed Myskina managed a weak smile.

“Of course I felt some pressure,” Myskina said. “I just tried to play my best and just didn’t.”

Myskina trailed Sanchez Lorenzo 2-0 in the second set, then won five consecutive games to get back into the match. But she resumed play listlessly and won only 14 points in the final set.

She finished with 69 errors, the last a wide forehand on match point.

Defending men’s champion Gaston Gaudio beat Julien Benneteau 7-5, 6-1, 6-0.

Rafael Nadal won his Roland Garros debut, beating Lars Burgsmuller 6-1, 7-6 (4), 6-1. Bidding for his sixth clay-court title this year, Nadal never faced a break point and won his 18th match in a row.

No 30 Richard Gasquet, an 18-year-old Frenchman who could renew his budding rivalry with Nadal in the third round, beat Daniele Bracciali 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.

Top-seeded Lindsay Davenport, seeking the only Grand Slam title she has never won, overcame a slow start in the opening centre court match and beat Katarina Srebotnik 3-6, 6-2, 6-2.

Two-time French Open runner-up Kim Clijsters won in her first Grand Slam match since January 2004, beating qualifier Meilen Tu 6-1, 6-0.

No 4 Elena Dementieva, who lost last year’s final to Myskina, beat Barbora Strycova 6-3, 6-3.

Other winners included No 7 Tim Henman, No 10 David Nalbandian, No 14 Carlos Moya, No 16 Radek Stepanek, No 18 Mario Ancic, No 20 David Ferrer and No 23 Sebastien Grosjean.

Advancing on the women’s side were No 8 Patty Schnyder, No 16 Elena Likhovtseva, No 18 Silvia Farina Elia, No 19 Shinobu Asagoe, No 20 Daniela Hantuchova and No 21 Mary Pierce, the 2000 champion.

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