Nadal, Safina sail through

PARIS: Rafael Nadal, bidding for an historic fifth successive French Open title, swept into the second round while women’s top seed Dinara Safina engineered a brutal centre court humiliation on Monday.

Top seed and World No 1 Nadal saw off plucky Brazilian qualifier Marcos Daniel 7-5, 6-4, 6-3 to take his Roland Garros career record to 29 wins in 29 matches. He will face either Igor Kunitsyn or Teimuraz Gabash-vili, both Russians, for a place in the last 32. “The first match is always difficult. I was a little nervous because this tournament is very special to me, but I feel good,” said Nadal, who arrived in Paris having lost his 33-match claycourt winning streak to Roger Federer in Madrid.

Later, Roger Federer eased into the second round with a 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 win over Spain’s Alberto Martin. The second seeded Swiss will face either Argentina’s Jose Acasuso or Spanish qualifier Santiago Ventura for a place in the last 32.

Women’s world No 1 Safina handed out a 6-0, 6-0 mauling to Anne Keothavong as the Russian’s howitzer hitting ruthlessly exposed the Briton’s glaring weaknesses. Safina, the 2008 runner-up and bidding to win a maiden Grand Slam title, will face compatriot Vitalia Diatchenko, a qualifier.

Keothavong, the world No 48, had come into the tournament buoyed by her performance in Warsaw last week where she became the first British woman in 26 years to make the semi-finals of a WTA claycourt event. But her sun-blessed Roland Garros debut turned into a nightmare as Safina showed no mercy, racing to victory in just over an hour on the back of three breaks of serve in each set.

Keothavong had the minor satisfaction of saving four match points before the

World No 1 secured win with another pinpoint, down-the-line forehand. It was one of 16 winners for Safina compared to just two for the Briton.

Safina said it was hard to feel sympathy for her opponent. “When we shook hands, she said: “At least you could have given me one game,” revealed the Russian. Also making progress were third seed Venus Williams, the 2002 runner-up, who saw off Amercian compatriot Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6-1, 4-6, 6-2. China’s Zheng Jie, the 15th seed and Thai veteran Tamarine Tanasugarn kept Asian interest alive, but Japanese 33-year-old Ai Sugiyama, playing in her 15th Roland Garros, went out 6-3, 6-2 to France’s Aravane Rezai.

Elsewhere, in the men’s first round, Russian 10th seed

Nikolay Davydenko, twice a semi-finalist, eased past Austria’s Stefan Koubek 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 with compatriot Mikhail Youzhny also advancing with a 7-6 (7/2), 6-1, 6-4 win over Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller.