Nadal takes domination on clay to new heights

It was no doubt the first time Rafael Nadal has been presented with a trophy after just one victory and it will be a surprise if it is the only prize he takes home from this year's French Open. The Spanish teenager won his opening match against Sweden's Robin Soderling 6-2, 7-5, 6-1 here last night, but it is another statistic that will go into the history books.

This was Nadal's 54th successive victory on clay, breaking the 29-year-old record set by Guillermo Vilas, who was on Philippe Chatrier Court to witness his milestone being passed. After the match the Argentinian presented Nadal with a glass trophy featuring a cross-section of the different layers of a clay court.

Apart from a brief spell in the middle of the second set Soderling rarely looked capable of denying Nadal his record. On a cold and blustery day the conditions gave the Spaniard as much trouble as his opponent. Gusts of wind blew clouds of dust around the court and the players had to deal with brief spells of rain.

Nothing, however, was going to stop Nadal, whose extraordinary run began 13 months ago after he was beaten in the quarter-finals at Valencia by Igor Andreev. He responded by winning successive tournaments in Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Rome, Paris, Bastad and Stuttgart and has already successfully defended the first three of those crowns this year. Roger Federer, whom Nadal beat recently in the finals at Monte Carlo and Rome, looks to be the only player capable of stopping him.

"I thought about the record when I started to get close, so obviously it's something that you want to go for," Nadal said. "Fifty-four victories is special because it was very difficult to achieve. It's been a lot of tournaments and a lot of matches. It's special because you might have bad luck on any day. It means a lot to me to be part of history."

Vilas said he was pleased to lose his record to an "exceptional person" but could not resist pointing out that the Spaniard had not beaten his 46-match winning run on all surfaces or his record of 14 titles in one year. He also said that when his 53-match run ended he "did not lose to a player but to a racket", referring to an illegal double-strung racket with which Ilie Nastase beat him at Aix-en-Provence. "I couldn't play him," Vilas said. "When I was 6-1, 7-5 down, I threw in the sponge."

Greg Rusedski is looking forward to the green grass of home after his latest venture on red clay ended in all too familiar fashion. The British No 1 was beaten 6-3, 6-1, 4-6, 7-6 by Paul Capdeville, a 23-year-old Chilean making only his second appearance at a Grand Slam tournament. Rusedski, 32, has not gone beyond the first round here for five years, although his performances earlier this month in the Rome Masters, when he won two matches in a row on clay for the first time this century, had given some cause for optimism.

Struggling with the conditions, Rusedski attempted in vain to play the Chilean at his own clay-court game for two sets before deciding to go on the attack. It made a match of it, but Rusedski was never ahead in the deciding tie-break, which Capdeville won 9-7 as the Briton missed two forehands in succession.

Rusedski, who is hoping to find a partner before today's lunchtime deadline to play in the doubles here before heading home to prepare for the grass courts of Queen's Club, Nottingham and Wimbledon, admits he can see the end of his career approaching. "I don't know if that's my last tango in Paris, but it's definitely getting close," he said.

Tim Henman's next opponent will be the Russian Dmitry Tursunov, who beat Jiri Novak in straight sets yesterday. Tursunov, the world No 134, has knocked Henman out of two of the last three Grand Slam tournaments, including Wimbledon last summer. The third Briton in the men's singles, Andy Murray, opens his campaign today on the main show court against Gael Monfils, another of the game's most promising teenagers.

On a day of few surprises Venus Williams and Kim Clijsters both went through to the second round after patchy victories over limited opposition.

Clijsters overcame France's Virginie Razzano 6-0, 7-6, while Williams, playing only her 10th match of the year, beat Austria's Sybille Bammer 6-4, 6-3.

British hopes in Paris

* ANDY MURRAY
First round: v Gaël Monfils (Fr), today.

Second round: v Edgardo Massa (Arg) or Dick Norman (Bel), to be scheduled

* TIM HENMAN
First round: beat Kenneth Carlsen (Den) 6-3 6-4 4-6 6-4 (Sunday).

Second round: v Dmitri Tursunov (Rus), tomorrow

* GREG RUSEDSKI
First round: lost yesterday to Paul Capdeville (Chile) 3-6 1-6 6-4 6-7

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition