Safin advances to second round at French Open

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Marat Safin easily advanced to the second round of the French Open, beating Fernando Vicente of Spain 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 on Sunday.

Updated: May 28, 2007 17:25 IST
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Marat Safin easily advanced to the second round of the French Open, beating Fernando Vicente of Spain 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 on Sunday before rain halted play on the opening day of the tournament.

The two-time Grand Slam champion from Russia, who lost in the first round last year but reached the semifinals in 2002, served two aces in his opening service game and won eight straight games until Vicente broke him in the third game of the second set.

"I think I can manage to pass two rounds," Safin said. "Then I'll be dangerous.

"I really love to play on clay," added Safin, who praised Roland Garros. "It's my place. Great court, good bounce, great people."

The 22nd-seeded Safin converted eight of 14 break points on center court, and his confidence showed in the first game of the third set. His attempted drop shot was too short, giving Vicente an easy winner. But instead of trying to retrieve the shot, Safin turned his back and walked away.

Safin, who has not won back-to-back matches since March, won on Vicente's second double fault while the rain was falling.

"It's tough to play with this weather," Safin said. "It's rainy. It's windy. In the back of your mind you're thinking, "Now we're going to stop.'"

Vicente, a 30-year-old veteran who has been hobbled by injuries, stretched his losing streak to 12 matches.

Serena struggles

Serena Williams struggled early against 91st-ranked Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria, losing three of her first four service games to trail 5-2, but rain eventually halted play at 6-5 with Pironkova serving for the match for the second time.

Williams, the surprise Australian Open champion earlier this year, rallied to get back to 5-5 as the rain began. Despite pleas to stop the match, Williams served in the 11th game and Pironkova broke again.

Later on Sunday, top-ranked Justine Henin was to play Elena Vesnina of Russia, while Venus Williams was up against Alize Cornet of France.

On the men's side, Australian Open finalist Fernando Gonzalez and former French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero were in action.

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