Djokovic, Sharapova  shine in Paris gloom

Paris: Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Maria Sharapova shrugged off the Paris gloom to reach the French Open second round as Japanese ninth seed Kei Nishikori became the tournament’s first major casualty.Eight-time champion Nadal, bidding to become the first man to win five Roland Garros titles in a row, beat US wildcard and world number 279 Robby Ginepri 6-0, 6-3, 6-0.

It was Nadal’s 60th win at the French Open against just one loss.World number one Nadal kicked off his campaign yesterday on the secondary Suzanne Lenglen court while title rivals Djokovic and Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka were handed top billing on the main Philippe Chatrier arena.

It was a decision blasted as “bizarre” by one fellow professional even though Nadal himself had criticised the state of the newly-laid clay on Chatrier after a weekend practice session.     Despite the controversy, it was business as usual for Nadal who fired 27 winners past Ginepri, a semi-finalist at the 2005 US Open whose challenge was undone by 41 unforced errors.

“It doesn’t matter where I play,” said Nadal who next faces either Paul-Henri Mathieu of France or highly-rated Dominic Thiem of Austria. “It’s always a pleasure and an honour to play at Roland Garros, on Chatrier, Lenglen or any other court. This place has given me unforgettable emotions.” Second seed Djokovic, the 2012 runner-up who is seeking a first Roland Garros title to complete a career Grand Slam, brushed aside Portugal’s Joao Sousa, the world 42, in straight sets, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4.

During a match interrupted by rain, the 27-year-old Serb was at his charismatic best, delighting the Philippe Chatrier crowd by sharing a drink with a ballboy as they sheltered beneath an umbrella. Djokovic, widely regarded as the favourite to dethrone Nadal having beaten the Spaniard in Rome two weeks ago, next faces French hope Jeremy Chardy.     “I played for most of the match quite solid. The end of the match was not so nice from my side because I dropped my serve twice,” said Djokovic.

“It was very heavy conditions. The court is not that great, or in a great condition at this moment.” Sharapova, seeded seven and the 2012 champion, needed just over an hour to beat fellow Russian, Ksenia Pervak, the  world’s 156th-ranked player, 6-1, 6-2.

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