Murray struggles as Nadal eyes record

PARIS: British third seed Andy Murray battled into the French Open last 32 on Wednesday as Roland Garros prepared to acclaim yet another record for four-time champion Rafael Nadal.

World number three Murray overcame a stern test from Italian world 104 Potito Starace before prevailing 6-3, 2-6, 7-5, 6-4.

The 22-year-old Scotsman had to come back from 1-5 down in the third set, saving two set points, before eventually cruising to a comfortable victory as he matched his best career performance here.

"I got broken at the start of the second set and once I got broken he started to play a lot better," said Murray.

"He managed to make me move a lot with his forehand but I still found a way to win. In five-set matches, the momentum always tends to shift."

Later Wednesday, top seed Nadal tackles Russia's Teimuraz Gabashvili looking for another record in his remarkable career.

If the world number one prevails he will better Chris Evert's record of 30 successive wins at Roland Garros. Evert set her sequence between 1974 and 1981, although she didn't play from 1976-1978.

Women's top seed Dinara Safina enjoyed another French Open breeze, defeating teenage compatriot Vitalia Diatchenko 6-1, 6-1 to set up a last 32 clash with another Russian, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

Safina, who didn't lose a game in her first round mauling of Britain's Anne Keothavong, took just 55 minutes to dispose of 18-year-old qualifier Diatchenko, the world number 151.

The world number one next faces 17-year-old Pavlyuchenkova, the 27th seed, who reached the last 32 with a 6-2, 7-6 (7/2) win over France's Julie Coin.

"I played a good match today. She is very young and maybe she respects me too much," said Safina.

"It should be a great match against Pavlyuchenkova. She's having a great season. I've never played against her or practised with her so I'm looking forward to meeting her."

Wednesday's win was Safina's 16th in 17 matches since she became world number one in April.

Also progressing to the third round were Belarusian ninth seed Victoria Azarenka and Chinese 25th seed Li Na.

Defending champion Ana Ivanovic was later facing Thai veteran Tamarine Tanasugarn and third-seeded Venus Williams was due to meet Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic.

Former world number one Maria Sharapova was up against 11th-seeded countrywoman Nadia Petrova.

In the men's event, French seventh seed Gilles Simon, Fernando Verdasco, the eighth-seeded Spaniard, Chilean 12th seed Fernando Gonzalez and Croatian number 13 Marin Cilic all progressed.

France's Fabrice Santoro, playing his 20th and last Roland Garros, was beaten 6-3, 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 by Belgium's Christophe Rochus in a first-round match held over from Tuesday because of bad light.