Cakewalk for Federer in Paris

By Martyn Herman

PARIS (Reuters) - Venus Williams and her dress were center of attention at Roland Garros on Wednesday but Roger Federer once again proved his tennis needs no added frills as both players moved smoothly into the French Open third round.

Williams, the women's second seed, overpowered tricky Spaniard Arantxa Parra Santonja 6-2 6-4 wearing a risque outfit more appropriate for the nearby Moulin Rouge cabaret.

Federer, the men's defending champion, relied on his racket to provide the "Ooh la " moments on Court Phillipe Chatrier during a rain-hit 7-6 6-2 6-4 win over Alejandro Falla.

On a day disrupted by frequent heavy showers after three days of hot sunshine, 2009 women's champion Svetlana Kuznetsova also moved forward in the draw, but only after saving four match points against Germany's Andrea Petkovic on Court One.

Caroline Wozniacki suffered no such dramas, the third seed beating Italy's Tathiana Garbin 6-3 6-1.

Play finally ended for the day at 10pm local time with France's Gael Monfils locked at 5-5 in the fifth set against Italy's Fabio Fognini who was docked a point at 4-4 after arguing furiously with the umpire that it was too dark to continue playing.

Nearly 10 hours earlier the 29-year-old Williams struck the ball beautifully against Santonja but it was not just her power game that had a sparse mid-morning crowd buzzing.

Once again, she strode on court wearing a revealing lacy black corset which at times threatened to reveal a little more than she wanted, particularly as Wednesday was Children's Day at Roland Garros and many of the crowd were school age.

After completing an impressive victory to move a step closer to a possible repeat of her 2002 final here against sister Serena, Venus described her latest creation as an illusion.

Having dispatched wily Swiss Patty Schnyder in the first round, the seven-times grand slam champion was again in dominant form against the unorthodox Santonja who plays double-handed on both wings and is especially tricky on clay.

After fending off a break point in her first service game she took command, coming through in an hour and 35 minutes.

"She definitely kept me on my toes," Venus told reporters in reply to one of the few questions about the match itself.

"Overall, today I just thought I played the bigger points, especially on my serve, I played those really well, and I think that was key."


Asked to explain the outfit that she designed especially for Roland Garros and which also requires her to wear flesh-colored underwear, Venus was happy to oblige.

"It's really about the illusion," she said. "The illusion of just having bare skin is definitely a lot more beautiful."

Federer's sartorial elegance at Wimbledon is well-known but really nothing can top the grace and elegance of his tennis.

That was the case again on Wednesday against Falla although initially he did struggle with his timing -- shanking several unforced errors off his frame as his south American opponent made all the early running.

Twice the players were forced off by rain that interrupted the schedule all day but Federer kept his game together and suffered no further alarms.

"I think he really pushed me to come up with something special, which I couldn't do in the first set," Federer told reporters. "I definitely got a little bit lucky to get out of that one.

Robin Soderling, Federer's victim in last year's final, is looming as a quarter-final opponent this year and the Swede was the most impressive player in second-round action on Wednesday, demolishing American Taylor Dent 6-0 6-1 6-1 in 71 minutes.

Eighth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga also reached the third round with a straight-sets win over fellow Frenchman Josselin Ouanna while Marin Cilic of Croatia continued to impress, beating Daniel Gimeno-Traver of Spain 6-3 7-6 6-2.

Kuznetsova looked to be joining Dinara Safina, the fellow Russian she beat in last year's final, out of the tournament when Petkovic served as 5-4, 40-0 in the second set.

However, the 22-year-old German tightened up badly to let Kuznetsova off the hook and the paid the price as the sixth seed finally found some form to win 4-6 7-5 6-4.

(Editing by Miles Evans)