PARIS - Apparently, even Roger Federer, with his record 16 Grand Slam titles, was in need of some advice on a wet and windy day at the French Open.
Forced off court by two rain delays, and "pushed," as he put it, by a player with a career record below .500, Federer turned to Swiss Davis Cup captain Severin Luthi for words of wisdom during yesterday's breaks. Told to be more aggressive early, then to use more drop shots late, Federer wound up with a 7-6 (4), 6-2, 6-4 victory over Alejandro Falla in the second round.
"Those were good things he told me," said the top-ranked Federer, the French Open's defending champion for the first time. "Those little details make a crucial difference."
The defending women's champion, sixth-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova, encountered quite a bit more trouble than Federer - she faced four match points in the second set against 41st-ranked Andrea Petkovic and was so distraught she whacked herself in the leg with her racket.
Petkovic made matters easier with unforced groundstroke errors on all four of those chances to win, though, and Kuznetsova eventually came all the way back for a 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 victory - but not before wasting three match points of her own.
"I'm not really sure what happened," Kuznetsova said. "I saw that she got tight."
Also into the third round was No. 2 Venus Williams, who walloped one serve at 128 mph in a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Arantxa Parra Santonja, then effortlessly volleyed aside a series of questions about her lacy, black dress in the postmatch news conference.
It's the same corsetlike outfit - trimmed in bright red along the bodice - that Williams wore in her first-round match, and it's garnered more attention than her play so far.
Other winners included No. 3 Caroline Wozniacki, No. 14 Flavia Pennetta, No. 15 Aravane Rezai, No. 19 Nadia Petrova and Williams' next opponent, No. 26 Dominika Cibulkova, a semifinalist last year.