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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Tennis: Federer, Venus Williams advance at French Open

AP Sports Writer

PARIS Roger Federer sat under a courtside umbrella and looked up at the gray sky as rain fell.

Tennis, anyone? With drizzle continuing after a one-hour delay, Federer rose from his chair, removed his warmup jacket and went back to work.

A change in the weather Wednesday at the French Open barely slowed defending champion Federer, who eliminated Alejandro Falla 7-6 (4), 6-2, 6-4. The No. 1-ranked Federer calmly endured two weather delays to reach the third round.

"This is how this game has been played for decades," he said. "We're used to walking on and off the court and being flexible about these kind of things."

After three days of warm sunshine, conditions were damp and cool for the start of round two. There was a third delay of 90 minutes after Federer finished.

The defending women's champion, sixth-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova, overcame four matches points in the second set and beat Andrea Petkovic 4-6, 7-5, 6-4. Petkovic committed unforced errors on all four points.

"I move on much more confident from being in that hole," Kuznetsova said. "I stood up there strong."

Before the rain, No. 2-seeded Venus Williams used her big serve to beat Arantxa Parra Santonja 6-2, 6-4. Williams whiffed on a forehand and was often bested in long rallies, but serves at up to 128 mph kept her in control, and she was never broken.

"On the bigger points, especially on my serve, I thought I played those really well," Williams said. "I think that was key."

Williams improved to 14-2 on clay in 2010. She's seeded second behind her younger sister Serena, who scouted while sitting next to their father. The sisters could meet in the final.

Federer lost serve just once against Falla, at 5-all in the opening set, then broke back and hit four winners in the tiebreaker.

"I thought the first set was good, actually, from both sides," Federer said. "He really pushed me to come up with something special, which I couldn't do in the first set, really. I definitely got a little bit lucky to get out of that one."

From there only rain could slow Federer. The match was stopped for 15 minutes in the second set, and again for an hour in the third before play resumed in a drizzle.

He tweaked his game as an adjustment to the weather.

"The texture of the clay changes drastically when there's no sun," he said. "Conditions slow down a lot. ... There are advantages and disadvantages, and you've got to use them if you can."

Federer, who completed a career Grand Slam when he won at Roland Garros last year, is seeking his 17th major title.

No. 5-seeded Robin Soderling won 20 of the first 22 points and went on to beat unseeded American Taylor Dent 6-0, 6-1, 6-1. Soderling, who upset Rafael Nadal last year and then lost to Federer in the final, has dropped only seven games through two matches.

Other men's winners included No. 8 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, No. 10 Marin Cilic and No. 11 Mikhail Youzhny.

Only one seeded man lost: Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. He was beaten by Thiemo de Bakker 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (5), 7-5. The lone seeded woman eliminated was No. 24 Lucie Safarova, beaten by Polona Hercog 6-1, 6-2.

No. 3 Caroline Wozniacki defeated Tathiana Garbin 6-3, 6-1, and No. 26 Dominika Cibulkova rallied past American Varvara Lepchenko 4-6, 6-2, 6-0. Cibulkova, a semifinalist last year, faces Williams next.

"I'll continue to try to execute my game and not worry really a ton about what my opponent is doing," Williams said.

Two-time semifinalist Nadia Petrova, seeded 19th, beat Agnes Szavay 6-1, 6-2. No. 14 Flavia Pennetta defeated Roberta Vinci 6-1, 6-1.

For the day's opening match on center court, Williams again wore her lacy corset despite the change in the weather, with temperatures in the 60s. At her postmatch news conference, there were seven questions about her outfit.

"Lace has never been done before in tennis, and I've been wanting to do it for a long time," she said. "The illusion of just having bare skin is definitely for me a lot more beautiful."

Williams sent her flounce flying when she served. She went to deuce six times in her first service game before holding, then pulled away to take the set.

In the second set, both players held until the seventh game. Williams drew Parra Santonja into a moonball rally, then sprinted forward to slam a winner. That gave Williams a 4-3 lead, and she served out the victory, her 28th in 32 matches this year.

In 13 previous French Open appearances, Williams reached the semifinals only once in 2002, when she lost to Serena in the final. But at 29 she's enjoying a career resurgence, and her record this year is the best on the women's tour.