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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Kuznetsova Loses a Few, Then Cruises to Victory

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PARIS — The women’s defending champion opened the 2010 French Open a bit sleepily on Court Philippe Chatrier, but Svetlana Kuznetsova quickly extinguished any thoughts of a nightmarish upset.

Seeded sixth, the Russian lost the first three games of her match against Romania’s Sorana Cirstea. Then she won the next nine games and cruised to a 6-3, 6-1 victory at Roland Garros.

Under sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-70s (mid-20s Celsius) on Sunday, the tournament eased into its schedule with just 32 of the 128 opening-round matches. The schedule of play was devoid of many of the big names — including the top seeds, Roger Federer and Serena Williams, and men’s favorite Rafael Nadal, a four-time champion.

Venus Williams, seeded second, was scheduled to play the fourth and final match at Court Suzanne Lenglen on Sunday. Robin Soderling, the men’s fifth seed and a surprise finalist last year after beating Nadal, rolled past France’s Laurent Recouderc, 6-0, 6-2, 6-3.


The only early result that could be considered an upset was Colombian Alejandro Falla’s breezy 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 rout of Serbia’s Janko Tipsarevic, the 41st-ranked player in the world. No. 11 Mikhail Youzhny beat Michal Przysiezny in straight sets.

The rest of the field is scheduled to play first-round matches on Monday or Tuesday. Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga are among the men scheduled to play on Monday. Those who will have to wait until Tuesday to start the tournament include Nadal, Andy Roddick, Fernando Verdasco and David Ferrer.

On the women’s side, Monday’s schedule includes top-seeded Serena Williams, Caroline Wozniacki, Jelena Jankovic, Elena Dementieva and Samantha Stosur.

Among those scheduled to begin play on Tuesday are four-time champion Justine Henin (perched obscenely at a post-retirement No. 22 seed), Dinara Safina and Maria Sharapova.

Kuznetsova’s match against the 20-year-old Cirstea looked to be a tricky one. Cirstea reached the quarterfinals last year by beating Alize Cornet, Caroline Wozniacki and Jelena Jankovic in consecutive rounds. She finally lost to Samantha Stosur.

Kuzenetsova struggled through the spring’s clay court swing, losing her opening matches at Rome and Madrid on her way to Paris.

A smattering of fans sprinkled throughout the stands took to Cirstea, wearing a bright orange outfit with a short skirt and a dark ponytail that stretched midway down her back. But Cirstea’s quick start unraveled amid missed first serves, and Kuznetsova forced mistakes by picking on Cirstea’s backhand side.

“Definitely I was a little bit nervous in the start, and it was rough start for me, but I think I’m very happy about it,” Kuznetsova said of the match.

With an uncomplicated opening match and room-temperature conditions, it felt as if the French Open was easing gently into its two-week schedule. But there promises to be more excitement on the horizon; many more of the big names will take to the courts on Monday, and forecasts suggest the likelihood of midweek rain.
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