Roland Garros dark horses Nikolay Davydenko and David Ferrer had few problems progressing to the French Open third round on a day when fellow leading seeds David Nalbandian and James Blake slipped up against a couple of unknowns.
Fourth seed Davydenko and Ferrer, seeded fifth, were all but forgotten about in the build-up to the tournament, with Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic predictably receiving top billing.
But the duo’s second-round successes today proved they could be menacing threats to the top three in the world.
Davydenko negotiated his way past enigmatic fellow Russian Marat Safin with some ease on Court One.
The mercurial Safin, a former Australian Open winner and a semi-finalist here in 2002, was a dangerous floater in the draw owing to his lowly world ranking of 73.
But Davydenko dealt with him well, his 7-6 (7/4) 6-2 6-2 win setting up a match with big-serving 28th seed Ivan Ljubicic.
The Croatian defeated Diego Junqueira 6-3 6-4 6-2 following the break for rain midway through the afternoon that lasted just over an hour.
“It was a great day for me as it was a difficult match,” said Davydenko.
“I think he (Safin) wants to be a top player again. And if you see what he did here, he can be. He hit so many winners, has a good return and serve.
“Maybe sometimes he’s just lacking something mentally.”
Ferrer, who in 2008 has been a winner on clay in Valencia and runner-up to Nadal in Barcelona, demolished veteran Frenchman Fabrice Santoro with the loss of just one game on Philippe Chatrier court.
Ferrer’s 6-0 6-1 6-0 win sets up a interesting third-round clash with Lleyton Hewitt, who beat Mardy Fish in impressive style, 6-4 6-3 6-2.
Nalbandian and Blake had come a cropper at the second-round stage earlier in the day.
Seventh seed Blake admitted he got his tactics all wrong in his surprise defeat to Latvian teenager Ernests Gulbis.
The American lost 7-6 (7/2) 3-6 7-5 6-3 and is still to progress beyond the third round in the French capital.
Blake, who looked in decent form in his first-round match against Rainer Schuttler, felt he only had himself to blame against Gulbis, 19.
“I played the way too many commentators think I should be playing,” said the 28-year-old.
“I didn’t make too many errors and I didn’t hit that many winners – that’s the way a lot of them think I should play.
“Here is a good indication that that’s not the way to win matches for me. There are a lot of guys out there that can dictate play against me if I try to play like that.
“It’s really frustrating for me to play a match like that when I know my game. I was just a little too passive.”
Gulbis will next play Nicolas Lapentti, who beat American Bobby Reynolds in four sets on Court Seven.
Argentina’s Nalbandian, the sixth seed, let slip a two-set lead to go down to world number 145 Jeremy Chardy.
The French wildcard won 3-6 4-6 6-2 6-1 6-2, although Nalbandian – a two-time semi-finalist here – appeared to be moving gingerly towards the end of a match that lasted over three hours.
And he admitted afterwards that despite going a break up early in the final set, an adductor muscle problem had hindered his movement.
There were few surprises elsewhere.
Ninth seed Stanislas Wawrinka, who has had an impressive 2008 on the tour, beat Marin Cilic 7-6 (7/3) 7-6 (7/4) 6-1 on Court 16.
It is the second time the Swiss has made the third round at Roland Garros and he will now play 24th seed Fernando Gonzalez, who saw off Spain’s Pablo Andujar in four sets.
Russian seeds Mikhail Youzhny and Dmitry Tursunov notched straight-sets wins just before play was suspended for rain at around 3.30pm local time.
Tursunov, the 30th seed, will play Chardy in the third round after an impressive 7-6 (7/4) 6-0 6-0 victory over Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain.
Youzhny, seeded 15, beat Argentina’s Maximo Gonzalez 6-3 6-2 6-2 and will play Fernando Verdasco next.
The Spaniard, seeded 22, was a winner in four sets over Juan Ignacio Chela.
Radek Stepanek, the 21st seed, defeated fellow Czech Jiri Vanek 6-1 6-0 6-7 (7/9) 6-3, setting up a clash with Spain’s Tommy Robredo, the 12th seed.
Other winners were 26th seed Jarkko Nieminen, Mario Ancic, Robin Soderling, Jurgen Melzer and Gael Monfils.