PARIS // The modern day King of Clay eclipsed another mark today, this time breaking the French Open men's record for consecutive wins. Top-seeded Rafael Nadal looked his usual dominant self in the first round, beating Marcos Daniel of Brazil 7-5, 6-4, 6-3 for his 29th straight win on the red clay at Roland Garros. The win bettered the mark held by Bjorn Borg, who won 28 straight from 1978-81. Nadal also equalled the overall tournament record, matching the 29 straight that Chris Evert won between 1974-75 and 1979-81. Evert did not play at the French Open from 1976-78.
Nadal was broken three times by Daniel, but the Spaniard remained perfect on the French Open's red clay as he tries to become the first player to win five straight titles at Roland Garros. "You always start with some nerves," Nadal said before walking off centre court. "I'm very happy with the win and to advance to the second round." Dinara Safina, the top-seeded women's player, and Venus Williams also advanced. Safina routed Anne Keothavong of Britain 6-0, 6-0 by spraying shots to all parts of the court.
"I was just playing point by point, game by game, and it ended up like this," said Safina. On the men's side, 10th-seeded Nikolay Davydenko of Russia, Fernando Gonzalez of Chile, Robin Soderling of Sweden and Victor Hanescu of Romania advanced. Three-time French Open finalist Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova are scheduled to play later today. *AP