Federer, Soderling through in French Open tennis

Paris: Defending champion Roger Federer defied two rain breaks to reach the French Open third round on Wednesday as last year`s runner-up Robin Soderling took just 71 super-charged minutes to book his place.

Federer, chasing a 17th Grand Slam title, overcame a sloppy first set, where he was plagued by 21 unforced errors and had to save five break points, before defeating Colombian left-hander Alejandro Falla 7-6 (7/4), 6-2, 6-4.

The world number one will tackle either Belgium`s Olivier Rochus or German qualifier Julian Reister, the world 165, for a place in the last 16.

Federer went into his match buoyed by having already defeated world number 70 Falla twice without dropping a set, including in the second round of Roland Garros in 2006.

But he struggled throughout the opening set before getting the better of the Colombian world number 70, shrugging off the distractions of two rain interruptions.

"A player like Falla needed the first set to have a chance of winning," said Federer, on a day when bursts of heavy rain brought to an end three days when temperatures had soared to a sweltering 30 degrees.

"He had a good first set where I made too many errors, but he was pushing me at the start. I knew the danger, it was a very tight first set and I was a little lucky."

Swedish fifth seed Soderling, who famously handed Rafael Nadal a first career defeat here last year, crushed hapless American Taylor Dent 6-0, 6-1, 6-1 in just 71 minutes and will next face Spain`s Albert Montanes.

"I didn`t expect to win so easily. I can`t remember playing such a short match," said the 25-year-old Swede, who only lost five games in his opening round and is a possible quarter-final opponent for Federer.

"But you have to keep your focus because a match can change very quickly."

Soderling`s quickfire victory equalled the 71 minutes it took Germany`s Philipp Kohlschreiber to beat Australia`s Bernard Tomic 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 last year.

The shortest match remains the 1970 final, when Jan Kodes defeated Zeljko Franulovic in 68 minutes.

The 29-year-old Dent was humiliated on Court Suzanne Lenglen, never recovering from winning just seven points in the first set.

Women`s world number two Venus Williams took 25 minutes longer to make the last 32 with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Spain`s Arantxa Parra Santonja.

Williams, the runner-up to sister Serena in 2002, next plays Slovakian 26th seed Dominika Cibulkova, who made the semi-finals in 2009.

"She played very well last year," said Williams. "But I will just try to execute my game plan and not worry a ton about what my opponent is doing."

Like Soderling, men`s eighth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was also in a hurry, taking just 79 minutes to clinch a 6-0, 6-1, 6-4 win over French compatriot and childhood friend Josselin Ouanna.

"I would rather have played somebody else, but that`s the way it is," said 25-year-old Tsonga, the 2008 Australian Open runner-up.

"I knew I had to start with intensity and grab him by the throat."

Tsonga will face either Spanish number 32 seed Guillermo Garcia-Lopez or Dutchman Thiemo De Bakker in the next round.

Also progressing to the third round were Croatian 10th seed Marin Cilic, 11th-seeded Russian Mikhail Youzhny and Albert Montanes, the 29th seeded Spaniard, who beat Federer on his way to the Estoril title in April.

Later on Wednesday, British fourth seed Andy Murray, who escaped a five-set thriller to defeat Richard Gasquet in the first round, faces gritty clay-courter Juan Ignacio Chela, one year after defeating the Argentine in the first round here.

Murray has won their last five meetings without dropping a set, including the second round in Madrid two weeks ago.

Women`s third seed Caroline Wozniacki tackles experienced Italian Tathiana Garbin, who famously put out Justine Henin in the second round in 2004.

Defending champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, the fifth seed, takes on Germany`s Andrea Petkovic.

Bureau Report

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