Kim Clijsters' 11th hour recovery from injury to play at the French Open proved in vain as her hopes were blown away in the second round on Thursday but Rafael Nadal stayed on course for a sixth title with a grinding win.
As the wind buffeted Roland Garros and the skies threatened a downpour, world number two Clijsters, who recovered just in time after injuring her ankle at her cousin's wedding, folded after squandering a match point against Dutchwoman Arantxa Rus, losing 3-6 7-5 6-1.
The Belgian, who had been on a 15-match winning streak in grand slams, was runner-up in 2001 and 2003 and her exit was her worst performance in Paris since her debut in 2000.
"I was too negative in my head,6" reigning Australian and U.S. Open champions Clijsters told reporters, refusing to blame her injury layoff for the defeat.
"If I wasn't feeling like I was able to play tough matches, then I wouldn't have made that decision to come here."
Rus, the world number 114 in only her third year on the tour, was ecstatic to have beaten her "hero".
Pablo Andujar is a big fan of world number one Nadal's but found his fellow Spaniard in better form than in his five-set cliffhanger against John Isner on Tuesday.
Nadal still missed a trick or two in a 7-5 6-3 7-6 win over the tricky Andujar but while he is struggling to light the fire that brought him five titles in his six campaigns here, the Mallorcan's battling qualities were still in evidence as he saved seven set points in the third set.
"I am not playing that well and I'm going to try to play much better next time. That's what I can say and that's what I can think, try my best in every moment," the world number one, who next plays Croatian qualifier Antonio Veic, told reporters.
Fourth seed Andy Murray, who could meet Nadal in the semis, laboured to a 7-6 6-4 7-5 win over Simone Bolelli while fifth seed Robin Soderling overcame Albert Ramos 6-3 6-4 6-4.
It was the end of the road, however, for last year's semi-finalist Juergen Melzer who was stopped in five sets by Czech unknown Lukas Rosol.
Sweden's Soderling, who like Clijsters has lost two Paris finals, against Roger Federer in 2009 and last year to Nadal, is flying beneath the radar in western Paris with all the focus on stuttering Nadal and the immense form of rival Novak Djokovic.
But cheered on by a smattering of Swedes with painted faces on a half-full Court Suzanne Lenglen, Soderling displayed why he is so dangerous on clay with some thumping winners.
Murray, outclassed by Djokovic in January's Australian Open final, huffed and puffed at times on his way to victory against the stubborn Bolelli but the crafty Briton has a decent draw and can never be discounted if he finds his best form.
"I was not worried about how I was hitting the ball today, because I've seen some of the matches, and everyone is struggling (in the wind)," Murray said of the tricky weather.
Russia's Maria Sharapova, a hot tip for the title, was almost blown off course against highly-rated French teenager Caroline Garcia before romping through the last 11 games for a 3-6 6-4 6-0 victory.
The former world number one Sharapova has suffered her share of injury and health problems but with the draw wide open she may never get a better chance to win the only grand slam title to elude her.
The seventh seed sprayed errors in the first half of her match against world number 188 Garcia who used the noisy home crowd on court Philippe Chatrier to her advantage.
Fighter that she is, Sharapova did not panic, rode out the storm before finally hitting her stride to set up a meeting with Chan Yung-jan of Taiwan.
"I just never think that the match is over until it actually is," Sharapova told reporters. "I think that no matter what situation you're put in, no matter how good or bad you feel, you've got to finish the match."
Fourth seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus continued her good form with a 6-0 6-1 whipping of France's Pauline Parmentier and China's Australian Open runner-up Li Na improved on a shaky opening round to enhance her prospects with a comfortable victory over Silvia Soler-Espinosa.
Czech dark horse Petra Kvitova made her move with a 6-4 6-1 victory over China's Zheng Jie and 12th seed Agnieszka Radwanska, another who will eyeing a title charge, also reached the third round by overcoming India's Sania Mirza 6-2 6-4.