Nadal breaks clay court record

Paris, May 30:

Rafael Nadal broke the Open-era record for consecutive victories on clay beating Robin Soderling of Sweden 6-2, 7-5, 6-1 in first round of the French Open on Monday. Nadal even received a trophy for his 54th consecutive win on clay, which broke the record he shared with Guillermo Vilas. “It’s important for me to be in the history,” Nadal said. “Fifty-four victories, it’s very, very difficult. It’s a lot of tournaments, a lot of matches. It’s not normal, because one day you can have bad luck, anything.”

Also winning on Monday was No 8-seeded James Blake. Winners in the women’s draw included five-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams, playing only her 10th match of the year, and two-time runner-up Kim Clijsters. Both survived error-filled matches. Williams beat Sybille Bammer of Austria 6-4, 6-3 while Clijsters overcame a 5-2 deficit in the second set and three set points to beat Virginie Razzano of France 6-0, 7-6 (4).

On Tuesday, Martina Hingis and Anastasia Myskina enjoyed quick relief for their Roland Garros pains when both women eased into the second round.

Hingis registered an easy 6-2, 6-2 win against America’s Lisa Raymond while Myskina, the 2004 winner who suffered the indignity of becoming the first defending champion to lose in the opening round 12 months later, disposed of India’s Sania Mirza 6-4, 6-1. Twelfth-seeded Hingis was a runner-up in 1997 and 1999 when she was jeered by the crowd after storming off court following her defeat to Steffi Graf.

Zheng Jie sparked her country’s best ever Grand Slam performance when she became the fourth Chinese woman to reach the second round. The 22-year-old knocked out French 23rd seed Tatiana Golovin 6-3, 7-6 (7/5) and will now face Croatia’s Ivana Lisjak. Zheng, who added the Estoril title earlier this month to her 2005 triumph in Hobart, joins Sun Tiantian, Peng Shuai and Li Na, who all won on Monday, in the next stage.

Other seeded players going through were number 15 Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia, German 13th seed Anna-Lena Groenefeld and the number 19 from Serbia and Montenegro Ana Ivanovic.

In the men’s event, Spain’s Albert Montanes accounted for 17th seed Robby Ginepri 6-3, 6-7 (2/7), 6-1, 6-4.