CORIA OUT BUT NOT DOWN
By Steve Douglas, PA Sport, Paris
Guillermo Coria's French Open campaign came to an end on the afternoon of day two, but the injury-prone Argentinian left Roland Garros insisting: "I'm back."
Coria, the runner-up here in 2004 when he lost to compatriot Gaston Gaudio in five sets in the final, has seen the last two years of his career ruined by shoulder and back injuries.
A former world number three, his ranking has dropped to 733 and he only entered this year's draw at Roland Garros because he was given a protected ranking of 105.
But in his first grand-slam event since the 2006 US Open, Coria was impressive and despite his 5-7 6-4 6-1 6-4 defeat to 12th seed Tommy Robredo, his display on Philippe Chatrier court hinted at better things to come.
Once on the verge of retirement, the 29-year-old now has fresh hope for the future.
"One month ago, I didn't think I would be here at Roland Garros, and you know what that would have meant to me," he said.
"But I took up the challenge and I can tell you the situation has changed.
"I'm back and I'm really eager to be on the tour. It was a great pleasure to be here.
"I feel great and I hope one day I will win the tournament."
Coria's foibles with his malfunctioning serve still persist but he caused Robredo - three times a quarter-finalist at the French Open - a host of early worries, especially in the first set.
"This demonstrates I can perform against a player who is ranked 13th or 14th in the world, so this gives me a lot of confidence," he added.
"It shows that I'm on the right track but I'm quite humble about it."
Robredo, who is in the same quarter of the draw as Nikolay Davydenko and David Ferrer, insists he did not underestimate Coria.
"When you play a guy who was that good, you always have to be careful," he said.
"He still has a lot of potential and a lot of mental power, and he will be back.
"But for me, to start with such a tough match was good."
A number of other seeds were not so fortunate before the heavens opened in the mid-afternoon on a rain-affected second day.
Richard Gasquet, the eighth seed, was forced to pull out of the tournament early on Monday because of a left knee injury.
The form of the 21-year-old, who was the top-ranked Frenchman in the draw, has dipped this year after a tremendous 2007 and there had been a doubt he would even make it to Roland Garros.
He had been due to play Florent Serra, who went on to dispatch Gasquet's late replacement Santiago Giraldo in straight sets.
Cyprus' Marcos Baghdatis was the highest seed to fall on Monday after he was thrashed by Simone Bolelli.
The 17th seed, who is based in Paris, found few home comforts in the French capital and struggled to find his rhythm after six weeks out of action for personal reasons.
He was dismissed 6-2 6-4 6-2 by the Italian Bolelli on Court Two but he tried to remain upbeat.
"I was lacking practice and matches but even though the result shows he had an easy win, I think I had some opportunities," said Baghdatis, who confirmed he will play Wimbledon next month.
"I felt good on the court but he played very well. He has a beautiful forehand and he played a good match."
Elsewhere, Guillermo Canas, the 29th seed and like Robredo a three-time quarter-finalist, was dispatched 7-6 (8/6) 7-6 (7/3) 7-6 (10/8) by the United States' Wayne Odesnik.
Eleventh seed Tomas Berdych, of the Czech Republic, had no such problems as he stormed past Robert Smeets 6-1 6-0 6-0 on Court Seven.
Similarly, Fernando Gonzalez, the powerful 24th seed from Chile, was a comfortable 6-3 6-3 6-1 winner in the all-south American clash with Uruguay's Pablo Cuevas.
But Fernando Verdasco, the 22nd seed, had to fight before beating Santiago Ventura in five sets in an all-Spanish clash.