Record-breaking win for clay king Nadal

CLAY-COURT king Rafael Nadal was unable to hide his delight after setting a new record for consecutive wins on the surface, and securing his place in the second round of the French Open.

The 19-year-old Spaniard routed Sweden’s Robin Soderling 6-2 7-5 6-1 on Philippe Chatrier court to mark his 54th successive win on clay, beating Guillermo Vilas’ previous record which had stood since 1977.

Nadal has won the last nine events he has played on the red surface, including victories at Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome.

He admitted, however, that passing the Argentinian’s former leading mark was a great honour.

“This was very special for me to beat his record,” Nadal said after his match.

“Winning 54 matches in a row on clay is enormous. I was too small to watch Vilas’ matches on television but I am happy and delighted to write my name in the history books.”

Nadal admitted his worst enemy was not Soderling, but the blustery conditions at Roland Garros.

“Today was probably one of the worst days to play on clay, the wind was terrible,” he added.

When asked about his rivalry with world number one Roger Federer, Nadal insisted they were not the only two players capable of lifting the French Open trophy on June 11.

“I never agree with the idea of favourites,” added Nadal.

The 2004 French Open winner Gaston Gaudio also progressed to the next round by storming past Croatia’s Roko Karanusic 6-2 6-2 6-2. The 27-year-old Argentinian was not satisfied with his performance however, and insisted he would have to improve his game to keep his chances alive in Paris.

“I don’t think I played an excellent game,” he said.

“It was the first time he (Karanusic) was playing at Roland Garros so I made the most of that opportunity. I played a bit better than him, but it wasn’t anything special really.”

Eighth seed James Blake of the US dispatched Thailand’s Paradorn Srichaphan 6-0 6-4 7-6 (7/3) while 2003 French Open winner Juan Carlos Ferrero, who is seeded 24th, and French talent Richard Gasquet also advanced.

Sixth seed Nikolay Davydenko and 11th-seeded Czech, Radek Stepanek, ousted USA’s Vincent Spadea and France’s Michael Llodra, respectively, to progress to the second round.

World number two Kim Clijsters insists she came to Paris with no expectations at all after advancing to the second round.

The 22-year-old Belgian, who is not a clay-court expert but won her first title on clay in Warsaw earlier this month, ousted unseeded French woman Virginie Razzano 6-0 7-6 (7/4) on the Philippe Chatrier court.

“It was tough today especially with the wind,” Clijsters said after the match.

Venus Williams, meanwhile, is hoping to be back in the top 10 in the near future after securing her place in the next round.

The 25-year-old American, who has played in only three tournaments this year after suffering injuries to her arm, wrist and right elbow, defeated Austrian Sybille Bammer 6-4 6-3.

Williams won four grand slams in 2000 and 2001 but experienced a four-year drought before winning Wimbledon again in 2005.

Meanwhile sixth seed Elena Dementieva of Russia also booked her ticket to the next round after her 7-6 (7/3) 6-2 victory over Slovakia’s Martine Sucha.

Elsewhere, seventh seed Patty Schnyder of Switzerland swept past Holland’s Michaella Krajicek 6-1 6-2, while ninth-seeded Italian Francesca Schiavone also progressed to the next round with a 6-3 6-4 victory over Ukrainian Alona Bondarenko.

Number 18 seed Elena Likhovtseva, however, who reached the semi-finals at Roland Garros in 2005, fell at the first hurdle — going out of the competition at the hands of unseeded Croatian Karolina Sprem 6-1 6-1 in just one hour and 11 minutes.

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