PARIS (Reuters) - A lack of sunshine, inferior opponents in his face and now a rant at the French Open schedule - things are not going as planned for defending champion Rafa Nadal despite a belated second-round victory at Roland Garros on Friday.
The Spaniard finally got his challenge for a record eighth title moving again after it ground to a standstill in dismal weather, seeing off Slovakia’s Martin Klizan 4-6 6-3 6-3 6-3.
Women’s champion Maria Sharapova required only 15 minutes on a cool but dry Chatrier Court as she polished off her second-round opponent Eugenie Bouchard having been a set and 4-2 to the good when rain stopped play on Thursday.
Top seed Serena Williams moved into the fourth round with a 6-0 6-2 rout of Romanian Sorana Cirstea. The American has dropped a mere six games and her winning streak now stands at 27 matches.
“Every slam is really my priority,” said the 15-times major winner but only once French Open champion. “I would love to win this one, but there is still a lot of people in the draw that would love to win this tournament.”
Nadal’s clash with Klizan was one of several second-round matches from the top half of the men’s draw which is lagging behind the bottom half occupied by second seed Roger Federer, who remained untroubled with a win against Julien Benneteau.
Federer provided 90 minutes of silky tennis to win 6-3 6-4 7-5 having taken the match by the scruff of the neck with a burst of 14 straight points towards the end of the opening set.
The Swiss’s sanguine mood was a contrast to Nadal’s who labeled the tournament’s schedule “a joke” after playing catch-up after his match with Klizan was rained off the previous day.
“Today I was playing almost three hours on court, and my opponent was watching the TV in the locker room,” he said after setting up a third round against Fabio Fognini who won his second round match on Thursday.
“I can only smile and try to win my match and try to be ready for tomorrow. But that’s not the right thing and I hope they accept the mistake.”
Nadal, who said he lacked “motivation” in a poor first set against fellow left-hander Klizan, was particularly annoyed that Fognini had been scheduled to play Lukas Rosol after one very brief women’s singles clash on rain-hit Thursday while he kicked his heels waiting for a men’s and a women’s match to finish.
“The excuse they told me was because Rosol had to play doubles. I am sorry, but that’s a joke,” he said.
Including Friday, Nadal, who still plays with tape on his suspect knee after seven months out, will have to win six matches in 10 days to become the first man to win the same grand slam title eight times.
He got little sympathy from Federer who has been immaculate so far, not dropping a set in three rounds and losing only 26 games en route to the last 16 where he will play France’s Gilles Simon or American Sam Querrey.
“Either you’re lucky or you’re not sometimes,” said Federer, who has avoided the worst of the gloomy Paris weather.
“But then I understand that he’s frustrated. He would like to play the second day like any other day. But 50 percent of the players couldn’t play.”
There is a growing perception that Nadal is vulnerable against opponents who go for broke and Klizan did just that, rattling the Mallorcan with mighty groundstrokes on his way to taking the first set with a single break of serve.
For a while Klizan looked as though he might have reason to complete the tattoo on his right calf.
“It’s not finished because I am waiting for some big moments in my life,” the 23-year-old Slovak said.
After dropping the first set in lacklustre fashion, Nadal responded to win the next three although it was never comfortable and he has yet to catch fire on the damp clay.
Nadal has no tattoos but plays with the numeral “7” stenciled on to his shoes. The man from Mallorca looks like he desperately needs some Mediterranean-style sunshine if he is to have “8” decorating next year’s sneakers.
It was a good day for seeded men with number four David Ferrer moving under the radar into the last 16 by seeing off fellow Spaniard Feliciano Lopez and sixth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga beat fellow Frenchman Jeremy Chardy.
Janko Tipsarevic (8), Tommy Haas (12) and John Isner (19) all won delayed second-round matches. Germany’s Haas, still a class act at 35, put a hole in the American challenge when he picked apart 20-year-old qualifier Jack Sock in straight sets.
Isner won an all-American clash with Ryan Harrison, coming back from two sets down to win 8-6 in the fifth - a year to the day after losing in five sets to local favorite Paul-Henri Mathieu in a 76-game epic.
Three former women’s champion advanced. Ana Ivanovic beat Virginie Razzano 6-3 6-2 and Svetlana Kuznetsova reached the fourth round for the ninth time with a 6-4 7-6(2) defeat of Bojana Jovanovski.
A round back 2010 champion Francesca Schiavone showed she is still a force on clay by ousting 21st seed Kirsten Flipkens.
Last year’s women’s runner-up Sara Errani maintained her impressive form to reach round four, the Italian fifth seed overcoming Germany’s Sabine Lisicki for the loss of four games.
Editing by Ed Osmond