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Maria braves Rodina storm

sports Updated: May 29, 2008 02:09 IST

Maria Sharapova almost became the first women's top seed in French Open history to lose in the opening round on Wednesday as Rafael Nadal showed her the way to master a Roland Garros sandstorm.

As a vicious swirling wind, which turned the famous claycourts here into a dustbowl, replaced the torrential downpours of the previous day, Russian golden girl Sharapova toiled for two and a half hours before squeezing past teenage compatriot, and world number 104, Evgeniya Rodina 6-1, 3-6, 8-6.

Sharapova, who needs a French Open title to complete a career Grand Slam, served up 17 double faults and twice had to serve to stay in the match. Sharapova will take on American qualifier Bethanie Mattek for a place in the last 32.

Fruitful win for Nadal

Triple men's champion Nadal comfortably extended his perfect Roland Garros record as he took a step closer to emulating Bjorn Borg as the only four-in-a-row winner. The 21-year-old Spaniard notched up his 22nd win in 22 matches and his 109th win in his last 111 claycourt career outings with a 7-5, 6-3, 6-1 opening round victory over Brazilian qualifier Thomaz Bellucci.

The second seed, who has defeated Roger Federer in the last two finals, will now face French qualifier Nicolas Devilder for a place in the last 32.

Djokovic moves ahead

<b1>Third seed Novak Djokovic, the Australian Open champion, wasted no time in reaching the third round with a 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 win over Miguel-Angel Jaen of Spain. Spain's Juan Carlos Ferrero, the 2003 champion and 23rd seed, was a first round casualty when he pulled out injured against Brazil's Marcos Daniel.

The Spaniard, who had never lost his opener in his eight previous visits, won the first set 7-6 (7/5) and was 2-2 in the second when he called it quits with a thigh injury. Australia's 25th seed Lleyton Hewitt showed no signs of his recent hip injury when he brushed aside France's Nicolas Mahut 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 to reach the second round. The former world No. 1 will face America's Mardy Fish for a place in the last 32.

In the women's draw, Russian sixth seen Anna Chakvetadze beat Spain's Nuria Llagostera Vives 6-3, 5-7, 6-1 and next faces Kaia Kanepi. However, French ninth seed Marion Bartoli, last year's Wimbledon runner-up, was knocked out in the first round by Australia's Casey Dellacqua 6-7 (4/7), 6-3, 6-2.