Clouds hang over Federer

Rain seems to be the only factor capable of stalling Roger Federer as the Swiss star looks on the verge of making short work of Michael Russell in the first round of the French Open at Roland Garros.

Rain seems to be the only factor capable of stalling Roger Federer as the Swiss star looks on the verge of making short work of Michael Russell in the first round of the French Open at Roland Garros.

The world number one was looking close to his imperious best against his American opponent when the poor weather forced play to be abandoned yesterday with Federer 6-4 4-1 ahead.

But the 25-year-old, who is hoping to claim the French Open title for the first time, will fancy his chances of finishing off Russell when they resume today.

Federer was second on the Philippe Chatrier court but a three-hour delay at the beginning of play meant he did not get started until well into the afternoon.

The delay did not seem to affect the top seed and he had little trouble establishing a healthy lead over the plucky Russell, ranked 68 in the world.

Federer had yet to lose his serve when the rain hit and should have no problems setting up a second-round clash with either Thierry Ascione or Marin Cilic.

The only match to be completed yesterday saw Russia’s Nikolay Davydenko secure a 6-3 6-1 6-1 victory over Stefano Galvani.

But the number-four seed arrived on court just five minutes before he was scheduled to be on and will have been relieved when rain allowed him a three-hour break to collect his thoughts.

When the match did get started he needed just an hour and a half to sweep aside his Italian opponent and book his place in the second round.

“I had to go straight to the court, and I was nervous. I didn’t have time to have a shower,” said the Russian number one. “I then took the chance during the delay to get myself ready.”

Davydenko awaits the winner of the match between Alexandre Sidorenko of France and Austria’s Werner Eschauer, which stood 6-3 3-4 in favour of the latter when play was suspended.

Davydenko is being tipped by some to challenge for a first grand slam but believes there is a lot of tennis to play.

“I have to go a long way yet. It’s not that I am putting it off. Everything is going well and this was good preparation for the second round.”

Two other big names were well set before rain caused play to be halted for the day.

Seventh-seed Ivan Ljubicic is 6-1 4-4 ahead against Arnaud Clement on the Suzanne Lenglen court, while ninth-seed Tommy Robredo of Spain is 6-3 6-4 2-1 up against Sergio Roitman of Argentina.

Elsewhere, Filippo Volandri, the 29th seed, is beating Paul Capdeville 6-3 2-2 and 17th-seed Juan Carlos Ferrero is 3-4 down to Amer Delic, but the match is going with serve.

In the women’s first round, Venus Williams showed some of her old form in powering past home favourite Alize Cornet 6-4 6-3.

Williams, chasing an eighth grand slam, is taking it slowly as she looks to rediscover her old rhythm, and is delighted to be back competing at the highest level.

“I have not had a lot of luck with injuries over the last few years,” said the American, who struggled with both elbow and wrist injuries last year.

“But I am a winner, and I am used to winning. I am counting my blessings but I definitely expect things from myself.”

Many have been slamming the state of the women’s game in America, with the Williams sisters again flying the flag for their country, but that does not concern Venus.

“I am focusing on myself, that’s all I can do. I can’t make more Americans play, or play better. My focus is staying on tour and if I can do that, the American flag should wave pretty nicely.”

One of the 10 Americans in the draw has already been knocked out – Jamea Jackson losing to 27th-seed Samantha Stosur 6-1 6-2.

Severine Bremond (31) became the first seed to be knocked out, losing 6-3 6-3 to Michaella Krajicek.

Only three more matches were completed before play was suspended for the day.

Na Li, the 16th seed, and 19th-seed Tathiana Garbin won in straight sets against Sandra Kloesel and Akiko Morigami respectively.

America’s Ashley Harkleroad beat Aleksandra Wozniak 6-2 7-6 (7-1).

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