2011 Roland Garros winner Li Na of China walks away from the net in her second round match. -Photo by AP
PARIS: Chinese sixth seed Li Na, the 2011 champion, was knocked out of the rain-lashed French Open on Thursday while Novak Djokovic moved effortlessly closer to a first Roland Garros crown.
Li went down 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 to brash American Bethanie Mattek-Sands in what was the 31-year-old's earliest defeat at the tournament in seven appearances.
As Mattek-Sands, the world number 67, looked forward to a third round match-up with Argentine qualifier Paula Ormaechea, Li was left surveying the wreckage of a second successive Roland Garros failure.
Twelve months ago, she went out in the last 16 to Kazakhstan's Yaroslava Shvedova, who herself was beaten by Ormaechea on Thursday.
“I know for sure I lost seven games in a row. It was tough conditions, back to the court three times,” said Li after her on-off encounter which started shortly after 1100 (0900GMT) but was only completed just after 1700 (1500GMT).
“But for both players it was the same, so I need to talk to myself and talk to the team to see what happened.”On a day which suffered over three hours in rain delays, top-seeded Djokovic wasted no time in making the third round.
He eased past Argentina's world 83 Guido Pella, 6-2, 6-0, 6-2 to set-up a mouth-watering clash with Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov.
Djokovic is bidding to win a first French Open and become just the eighth man to complete a career Grand Slam.
Dimitrov beat him in the Madrid Masters second round earlier this month.
The 26th seeded Bulgarian will be playing in the last 32 of a major for the first time after breezing past French wildcard Lucas Pouille, the world number 324, in straight sets 6-1, 7-6 (7/4), 6-1.
Later Thursday, seven-time champion Rafael Nadal, who is hoping to become the first man to win the same major eight times, faces Slovakia's Martin Klizan for a place in the last 32.
Nadal, the third seed, is also seeking an 11th Grand Slam title.
Japanese 13th seed Kei Nishikori made the third round for the first time with a 6-1, 5-7, 6-1, 6-4 win over Grega Zemlja of Slovenia.
The Asian number one next meets either France's Benoit Paire or Lukasz Kubot of Poland.
Third seed Victoria Azarenka reached the third round with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Germany's Annika Beck.
Australian Open champion Azarenka, a quarter-finalist in Paris in 2009 and 2011, next faces either France's Alize Cornet or Spain's Silvia Soler-Espinosa for a place in the last 16.
Former finalist Samantha Stosur and three-time semi-finalist Jelena Jankovic also went through.
Ninth-seeded Stosur was a set and 4-1 up on France's Kristina Mladenovic before a first stoppage.
The Australian then took advantage of a 20-minute window on their return to Court Philippe Chatrier to complete a 6-4, 6-3 win.
“It took me five years to win a match here at Roland Garros through juniors and qualies and everything else,” said Stosur.
“It was a slow process. I think it was just a matter of me becoming a better player and I understood my game a lot better and started to come onto this surface and realized that the weapons I've got really suit this.”
The 2011 US Open champion will face Serb 18th seed Jankovic for a place in the last 16. Jankovic, a semi-finalist in 2007, 2008 and 2010, beat Spain's Garbine Muguruza 6-3, 6-0.
“I think she's a great up and coming player. She hits the ball very hard, very flat,” said Jankovic of the Spaniard.
“And especially in the beginning of the match she gave me a lot of trouble. It was not easy playing against such a player.”
China's Zheng Jie also reached the last 32 with a 6-3, 6-1 win over Melanie Oudin of the United States.
But Czech seventh seed Petra Kvitova ended the hopes of another Chinese player, Peng Shuai, winning 6-4, 6-3
She will next face Jamie Hampton of the United States.
New Zealand's Marina Erakovic, the world 92, put out Slovak 16th seed Dominika Cibulkova, 6-2, 2-6, 6-4 to reach the third round for the first time. She will face America's Sloane Stephens for a place in the last 16
Defending champion Maria Sharapova was taking on Canadian teenager Eugenie Bouchard, the junior Wimbledon champion.