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Since 1st March, 1999
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Hewitt claws his way up
- French open l Kuerten, Ferrero, Venus win; All over for Arazi, Dokic

Paris: Cranky and stubborn as ever on court, Lleyton Hewitt drew on all his obstinate qualities to survive a tough French Open test Thursday.

The top seed and world No. 1, berating himself all the while, scratched and clawed his way past Nikolay Davydenko 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 to reach the third round.

It was not a pretty sight. The tennis was not of the highest order, but the Australian’s unyielding approach made for compelling viewing.

Tournament favourite Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain hardly broke sweat in reaching the third round. Fererro, last year’s beaten finalist, sped into the last 32 in just 42 minutes when Nicolas Massu of Chile pulled out with an ankle injury halfway through the second set. Ferrero was leading 6-2, 3-0 at that stage.

Defending champion Albert Costa and three-time winner Gustavo Kuerten posted contrasting wins, but American hope James Blake lost 3-6, 6-4, 6-7, 4-6 to Ivan Ljubicic. Blakes’s defeat left just two from the US left in fray — Vincent Spadea and a 30-something Andre Agassi.

Costa was again made to battle for five sets but eventually outlasted Czech Radek Stepnaek 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 to reach the third round. Kuerten was merciless in defeating Hicham Arazi 6-1, 6-0 6-1.

“I think it was just one of those days,” Kuerten said. “I knew how I was going to play the match before I got to the court.”

Tim Henman kept British hopes alive after beating American Todd Martin 7-6, 5-7, 6-1, 7-5 in a see-saw second round battle. Henman, the last Briton left in the draw after the exit of compatriot Greg Rusedski, scrambled back from 0-3 down in the decider to clinch the match after three hours 27 minutes.

Bidding to reach the fourth round for the first time at Roland Garros, Henman will face the daunting task of overcoming third seed Ferrero on Saturday.

In women’s singles there were comfortable wins for second seed Kim Clijsters of Belgium and the newly-wed Lindsay Davenport of the US, but 10th seed Jelena Dokic lost 6-4, 3-6, 2-6 to Slovenia’s Tina Pisnik.

Hewitt’s girlfriend Kim Clijsters romped through in some style. All sweetness and light, the Belgian barely broke a sweat as she ran through Marlene Weingartner 6-2, 6-2.

The second seed out-manoeuvred and out-hit her German opponent to record the victory with minimum of fuss. She next faces Paola Suarez after the Argentine ousted American Corina Morariu.

Davenport ousted Iroda Tulyaganova of Uzbekistan 7-5, 6-1. Third seed Venus Williams was less impressive but did just enough to oust Australian Evie Dominikovic 6-3 4-6 6-2 to set up a clash with either Italy's Silvia Farina Elia or Czech Zuzana Ondraskova.

Former champion Jennifer Capriati was rock solid. The American seventh seed beat France’s Marion Bartoli 6,-3 6-0.

Sheer determination and an absolute refusal to back down are traits on which Hewitt has built a career. Against a young Russian with mighty weapons, Hewitt needed both in large measures before clinching his third round spot.

“I’m just relieved to be in the third round. Happy to get out of it in four sets instead of five,” Hewitt, 22, said. “I am not one of the hot favourites like the Spanish guys and the Argentines, but I am happy to be at the back of the pack.”

“I’ve played two two tough matches so far. He was probably one of the best guys who wasn’t seeded,” said Hewitt. Next up is Tommy Robredo after the Spaniard beat Jonas Bjorkman.

Ferrero displeased

Ferrero advanced, but not before taking a swipe at the organisers after his match against Massu was placed on one of the outside courts.

The Spaniard, beaten in the final last year by Albert Costa, is a favourite this year and was less than impressed when he found himself on the cramped quarters of the No. 2 court.

“I feel I’d done well before arriving in Paris but I was placed on an outside court so maybe they don’t consider me as one of the favourites,” said the 23-year-old after Massu retired midway through their match. “To play in the second court is okay but a lot of people who wanted see the match couldn’t get in.”

Paes, Bhupathi in 2nd round

Meanwhile, India’s campaign in the French Open started on a bright note on Thursday with both Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi advancing to the second round of the men’s doubles event with their respective partners, adds a report from New Delhi.

Fifth seeds Paes and David Rikl of the Czech Republic defeated David Adams of South Africa and Justin Gimelstob of the United States 6-3, 6-2.

Second seeded Bhupathi and Max Mirnyi of Belarus then beat the Japanese-South African pair of Thomas Shimada and Myles Wakefield 7-5, 6-3, according to information received here.

In the second round, Paes and Rikl will play the American team of Rick Leach and Brian MacPhie while Bhupathi and Mirnyi meet the French pair, Thierry Ascione and Julien Varlet. (Agencies)

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