Roland Garros seeds James Blake and David Nalbandian were sent crashing out of the French Open at the second round stage yesterday.
If the seventh-seeded Blake’s 7-6 (7/2), 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 loss to Ernests Gulbis of Latvia was only a minor upset, given his dislike for clay, sixth seed Nalbandian’s 3-6, 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 collapse at the hands of French wild card Jeremy Chardy was a shocker.
The burly Argentine had been touted as one of the main threats in the way of a third straight final between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, even though his form of late had been poor.
He raced into a two sets lead, but then Chardy, the world No. 145, playing in only his sixth ATP Tour-level event at the age of 21, stepped up the pace and dominated exchanges from the baseline.
His win brought some relief to slumping home hopes at Roland Garros and he next goes up against Dmitry Tursunov of Russia with a place in the last 16 beckoning.
Blake had been the flag-bearer of a US revival at the French Open, but he was always in trouble up against Gulbis, the first Latvian to play at the top level.
“I felt like I could have won this match and had better success here,” the 28-year-old Blake said after failing to match his run into the third round in 2006. “Now I have to forget about this and move forward and figure out what happened in time for the grass court and hard court season.”
In the women’s tournament, third seed Jelena Jankovic reached the third round, but saw her hopes of lifting a first Grand Slam hit by a painful injury to her right forearm and elbow.
The 23-year-old Serb defeated Croatian-born New Zealander Marina Erakovic 6-2, 7-6 (7/5), but she needed extensive treatment to relieve the pain halfway through the second set.
“The pain started at the beginning of the second set and it was getting worse and worse,” Jankovic said. “The balls were heavier, from hitting a lot of them my arm got very tight. I started having pain and it is swollen. The trainer came on and helped me get to the end.”
There were no such problems for Venus Williams who powered past Tunisian qualifier Selima Sfar 6-2, 6-4 to join sister Serena in the third round. They could potentially meet in the semi-finals.
Chinese hopes slumped with the defeat of Peng Shuai, who lost her second round tie 6-4, 6-3 to experienced Czech player Iveta Benesova.
Peng, the world No. 64, was trying to make the last 32 for the first time in three visits, but she was completely outplayed by Benesova who had to qualify and marked her determination by knocking out compatriot and 15th seed Nicole Vaidisova in the first round.
Zheng Jie, who made the fourth round on her Roland Garros debut in 2004, will try to keep Chinese interest in the singles alive when she faces Russia’s No. 21 seed Maria Kirilenko.
Rain once again stopped play on the showcourts yesterday after four hours of action on the fifth day of the tournament.
The first three days had been blighted by showers in Paris and the latest interruption came as top seeds Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal were in the early stages of their second-round matches.
Nadal was 6-4, 5-0 ahead against French qualifier Nicolas Devilder, while Federer had saved two set points before reaching 5-5 in the first set. Federer, out to complete his collection of Grand Slam titles, was taking on Spanish clay court specialist Albert Montanes.
Last up on the schedule was women’s top seed Maria Sharapova, who came within two points of losing in the first round on Wednesday before scraping through in three sets.
The world No.1 was drawn against Bethanie Mattek of the US, who has won just two games in her previous 10 Grand Slam tournament appearances.