PARIS (Reuters) - Novak Djokovic had a simple solution to the rain showers that continued to play havoc at the French Open on Thursday but the weather got the better of former women’s champion Li Na whose hopes were sunk at a soggy Roland Garros.
World number one Djokovic needed just an hour and 26 minutes to thrash Argentina’s Guido Pella 6-2 6-0 6-2 to reach the third round after a lengthy wait to get on court.
There was only frustration and lots of twiddling of thumbs, however, for defending champions Rafa Nadal and Maria Sharapova.
Nadal got no further than the locker room after his second round against Slovakia’s Martin Klizan was one of 10 singles matches cancelled.
Sharapova led Eugenie Bouchard 6-2 4-2 when the over-worked groundstaff hauled the green court covers over for the last time at 2100 local time.
Nadal has not played since being given a fright by Daniel Brands on Monday and is in danger of going rusty before he continues his quest for an eighth French Open title.
Fortune has not been kind to the Spaniard so far, offering up an inspired Brands and a rain-soaked schedule that means he lags a round behind likely semi-final opponent Djokovic and faces the prospect of six matches in 10 days.
Nine third-round berths are still up for grabs in the top half of the men’s draw - a stark contrast to the bottom half occupied by Roger Federer where the line-up is complete.
China’s Li, winner in 2011, was bundled out by American Bethanie Mattek-Sands, a player whose grand slam appearances are usually memorable more for her outlandish outfits and war paint.
The sixth seed was twice forced off court during lengthy rain delays and when the third instalment of the match began she promptly lost seven games in a row on the way to a 5-7 6-3 6-2 defeat.
“I haven’t worn anything too crazy on court for a few years now,” said 66th-ranked Mattek-Sands, who sported knee-high black socks. “I feel like my racket has been doing the talking.”
Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka fared better than Li as did former Roland Garros runner-up Samantha Stosur.
Azarenka beat Germany’s Annika Beck 6-4 6-3 and Stosur posted an identical score against Kristina Mladenovic of France.
Djokovic was also interrupted in mid-flow, although such was his dominance of 23-year-old Pella, ranked 101st in the world, that his opponent could have been excused for opting to remain in the locker room after yet another shower moved away.
After some closely fought early rallies, Djokovic, trying to complete his career grand slam after losing in the final last year to Nadal, decided enough was enough.
Propelling the ball relentlessly beyond the reach of Pella, he carved through the next 11 games, showing no mercy with the threat of further rain lurking on the Parisian skyline.
Superhuman though the 26-year-old’s play must have appeared to the outclassed Pella, Djokovic assured reporters that his rain-break routines were pretty normal.
“I was resting mostly, trying to stretch and do some exercises to keep my body warm as much as I could,” he said.
”Like every human being does, you know, sit, eat, go to toilet, come back, wait for the time to go on the court.
”You’re mentally preparing to get on the court. Your intensity is there, and suddenly they call it off.
“You can’t affect nature. I‘m just glad that I finished the match today.”
With so many second-round matches held over, at least Djokovic knows who he will be up against in the third round after Grigor Dimitrov beat French teenage wildcard Lucas Pouille.
The 26th seed became the first Bulgarian man to reach the last 32 of a grand slam since tennis turned professional in 1968 and he will have no shortage of confidence against the world number one after his recent victory on clay in Madrid.
Dimitrov said he was relishing the chance to face Djokovic again on a “big” court because “you have more space to run”.
Djokovic will be only too happy to oblige.
Despite the inclement weather, the singles draws are beginning to take shape and the seeds are about to collide with some meaty match-ups in store to finally spark what has so far been a disappointing tournament into life.
Stosur will next face 18th seed Jelena Jankovic in a repeat of their 2010 semi-final after the Serbian former world No.1 reeled off 12 successive games to beat Spain’s Garbine Muguruza 6-3 6-0 before the rain set in.
Editing by Ed Osmond