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Roland Garros 2009

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Watch Live Tennis (French Open)

Wednesday, May 27

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French Open Review Day 1

Lleyton Hewitt withstood a serving masterclass by Ivo Karlovic to hit back from two sets down and claim an epic first-round win.

Karlovic, who is 6ft 10in tall, powered down 55 aces - which is believed to be a record for a singles match in the Open era - on Court One but still somehow lost, making it 11 successive five-set defeats for the Croatian.

The never-say-die spirit of Hewitt, the former world number one who is on an upward spiral after an injury-hit 2008, was in evidence as he posted a four-hour 6-7 (1/7) 6-7 (4/7) 7-6 (7/4) 6-4 6-3 victory to stay on course for a possible third-round meeting with top seed Rafael Nadal.

Hewitt said: "It's more of a mental battle to come back from two sets after you lose them in breakers.

"You have to hang in there and be prepared to go the distance. That's what I'm proud of today."

Hewitt, who won from two sets down for the fifth time in his career, admitted he was often left helpless by Karlovic's monster serve, adding: "It's frustrating but you have to put it aside.

"You know it's going to happen when you go out on court."

Hewitt, currently ranked 50 in the world, takes on Andrey Golubev of Kazakhstan next.

With third seed Andy Murray routing Argentina's Juan Ignacio Chela 6-2 6-2 6-1, the biggest casualty of the day looked like being a home favourite, Gilles Simon.

The seventh seed had major trouble dealing with his opponent from the United States, Wayne Odesnik, and it was nip and tuck until Simon finally eased away in the fifth set to seal a 3-6 7-5 6-2 4-6 6-3 triumph. He will next play another American, Robert Kendrick.

Eighth seed Fernando Verdasco wasted little time in brushing aside Florent Serra in straight sets to reach the second round.

The Spaniard, who lost to Nadal in an epic Australian Open semi-final earlier this year, was in impressive form as he won 6-2 6-1 6-4.

Verdasco has had a solid 2009, making the quarter-finals of all eight of the tournaments he has played in, but he acknowledges he has a tough draw at this event.

"It's going to be difficult but I'll see if I can make the quarter-finals to play Rafa (Nadal) - I'll take that," said Verdasco, who may have to get past Nicolas Almagro and Nikolay Davydenko before that.

David Ferrer, a compatriot of Verdasco and the 14th seed here, encountered few problems in his 6-2 6-4 6-4 success over Frederico Gil while 18th seed Radek Stepanek was also a comfortable straight-sets winner, beating 2004 champion Gaston Gaudio 6-3 6-4 6-1.

Earlier, Marat Safin, the 20th seed and, like Hewitt, a two-time grand-slam champion, launched his final Roland Garros campaign with a 6-4 6-4 6-4 victory over Frenchman Alexandre Sidorenko.

"If I have a couple more matches here, it would be great," said Safin, who is retiring at the end of the year.

"I'm not really happy with the way I played but the result was okay."

It was only the Russian's second win on clay in his farewell season and he will next play France's Josselin Ouanna, a winner in four sets against Marcel Granollers.

Croatia's Marin Cilic, the 13th seed, lost only seven games as he cruised past Jan Hernych 6-0 6-4 6-3 and 31st seed Almagro crushed Agustin Calleri 6-4 6-1 6-3.

Elsewhere, there were wins for Dudi Sela, Philipp Petzschner and French lucky loser Mathieu Montcourt, who progressed after opponent Yen-Hsun Lu retired injured.

Meanwhile, France's Gael Monfils, the 11th seed, confirmed at a press conference he will be fit to play Bobby Reynolds in his first-round match on Tuesday even though he is suffering with a knee injury.

Nadal insists best is yet to come

Nadal insists best is yet to come

Top seed Rafael Nadal created a French Open record for consecutive wins - but admitted he was not at his all-conquering best.

The four-time defending champion was given a thorough work-out by Brazilian qualifier Marcos Daniel, ranked 97th in the world, and came through 7-5 6-4 6-3 to reach the second round.

The 22-year-old made it 29 successes on the trot in the French capital, where he remains unbeaten since making his debut in 2005.

But he was definitely not his usual sprightly self, and even went a break down in the second set.

That proved to be the turning point, though, as Nadal promptly broke back and quickly wrapped up the set.

Daniel, by then resigned to his fate, was broken again at the start of the third set. He managed one last hurrah, breaking Nadal as the Mallorcan served for the match, but he let slip three points to pull it back to 4-5 and a volley that drifted wide sealed his fate.

"It was difficult. I was expecting a hard-fought match but I obviously wasn't at my best level," said Nadal.

"But it's been like that for the last four years (in the first round). And I have won in three sets, that's a positive.

"I started to play better in the third set and I hope to continue improving in the next match."

Roger Federer is probably Nadal's chief rival again this year and he advanced into the second round with a minimum of fuss against Alberto Martin.

The world number two, who is once again bidding to complete his set of grand slams and equal Pete Sampras' record of 14 major titles, eased to a 6-4 6-3 6-2 victory in an hour and 43 minutes.

Earlier, 10th seed Nikolay Davydenko admitted he was not in the best shape to challenge for the title this year, despite a convincing 6-2 6-1 6-4 first-round win over Austria's Stefan Koubek.

The Russian missed the majority of the first three months of 2009 with a heel injury and has recently been troubled by a muscle strain in his left leg that forced him out of last week's Austrian Open.

The two-time Roland Garros semi-finalist knows it will tough for him to match or better his best run here.

"I'm a bit disappointed because I started the clay-court season and I said to myself I was going to be in form for Roland Garros," Davydenko said.

"But after Madrid I injured myself. I couldn't play at Kitzbuhel last week, which prevented me from preparing correctly for Roland Garros.

"I am lacking matches, lacking physical freshness. I don't know what five-set matches are going to do to me."

Fernando Gonzalez, the 12th seed, and Robin Soderling, the 23rd seed, also made it through to round two thanks to three-set wins against Jiri Vanek and Kevin Kim, respectively.

Seventeenth seed Stanislas Wawrinka, of Switzerland, encountered more problems, needing a deciding set to get past Nicolas Devilder 6-3 5-7 2-6 6-4 6-4.

"You never want to think it's over before match point but I knew I wasn't on the right track," said the Swiss, commenting on his feelings when 4-1 down in the fourth.

"But I've always said I liked five-set matches. Physically I feel strong, stronger than most players."

Nicolas Massu, Nicolas Kiefer, Denis Istomin, Mikhail Youzhny and 30th seed Victor Hanescu were other winners today.

Italy's Potito Starace secured a second-round meeting against British number one Andy Murray, the third seed, after opponent Mischa Zverev retired through injury at the start of the third set of their match.

Germany's Zverev was 6-7 (5/7) 7-5 1-0 down when he called it a day because of stomach problems and cramps.

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