The seedings may make it look like #26 Andy Roddick was an upset victim at Roland Garros, but anyone who's followed his career this year can hardly be surprised by Roddick's uninspired performance today. The 29-year-old had just three clay court matches under his belt coming into the tournament, all at last week's round-robin event in Dusseldorf. During the course of the week, Roddick lost to Tomas Berdych, Carlos Berlocq, and Go Soeda, all in relatively routine straight-set matches. Those results gave tennis fans little reason to believe Roddick could notch a win at the French Open, but Roddick had the good fortune to draw Frenchman Nicolas Mahut in the opening round. The old-school Mahut is as ill-suited for clay as any player in the draw, having accrued just seven tour-level wins on the surface in his career. The match was a true toss-up, but it looked like Roddick's friendly draw would set him up for a third-round clash with Roger Federer.
Mahut dictated the first two sets, as Roddick's game was plagued by forehand errors, poor movement, and a deteriorating serve. Mahut, still beloved for his Wimbledon near-heroics nearly two years ago, won the support of the Paris crowd despite being the lesser-known player on the court. Despite Mahut's 6-3, 6-3 lead, it seemed the underdog was destined to have some complications on his road to victory. Sure enough, Roddick was able to gain momentum in the end of the third set, as Mahut began to make errors and play tentatively in the match's high-pressure moments. After winning the third set 6-4 and scoring an early break, it seemed Roddick had a fighting chance. It was then that Roddick's momentum disappeared as quickly as it had come. The aggressive tennis that allowed him to win the third set began to let him down, and after a string of errant forehands, botched volleys, and service woes, Roddick was broken three straight times as Mahut took the fourth set and the match at 6-2.
Given that Roddick missed the French Open last year, his defeat won't do much to impact his ranking, but his sluggish performance raises all kinds of questions about his health, his motivation, and his sense of purpose going into the grass court season. While Roddick will go down as the only seeded man to lose on Day One, he hardly belongs in the same breath as the other seeds who advanced today.
Some other highlights from the first day of play so far:
- The top two men's seeds, #5 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and #9 Juan Martin Del Potro, advanced after surviving minor scares. Each man lost a set, Tsonga to the young qualifier Andrey Kuznetsov and Del Potro to the clay court veteran Albert Montanes, but neither was ever in serious danger of losing the match. Del Potro seemed to recover nicely after receiving treatment for a knee injury at one set all.
- There were two five-setters on the men's side, as Stanislas Wawrinka survived a challenger from Flavio Cipolla. Gilles Muller advanced in a match of two unseeded serve-and-vollyers, as he took out the Dutch qualifier Igor Sijsling 8-6 in the fifth.
- 2003 champ Juan Carlos Ferrero cruised to a 1, 4, and 3 win over French wildcard Dasnieres de Veigy. The veteran has had a nice clay court season after winning just one match on hard courts this winter.
- All seeded women have advanced so far today with little trouble, and young Americans Melanie Oudin and Irina Falconi scored surprise wins.
- As Day One play winds down, Venus Williams is at one set all in her opening match. We'll have more on this and other matches after play concludes for the day.