Roddick Ousted at French Open as Venus Williams Returns With Win

Roddick Ousted at French Open as Venus Williams Returns With Win
US Andy Roddick reacts as he plays with France's Nicolas Mahut in the French Open tennis tournament in Paris. Photographer: Patrick Kovarik/AFP/GettyImages

Andy Roddick, the last American man to win a major tennis title, lost on the opening day of the French Open to France’s Nicolas Mahut. Venus Williams and Samantha Stosur won.

Roddick, the 2003 U.S. Open champion, was beaten by the 88th-ranked Mahut 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 yesterday at Roland Garros in Paris.

Roddick, a former world No. 1, had been trying to win his first match on clay this season. The 26th seed lost all three matches he played for the U.S. at last week’s World Team Cup in Dusseldorf, Germany. The 29-year-old missed clay-court events in Rome and Madrid in the run-up to the French Open because of a hamstring problem. The injury had forced Roddick to retire in the second round of the Australian Open in January.

Roddick, whose 26 winners were 16 fewer than Mahut’s, refused to blame his injury problems for his loss.

“I move just horrendously out here,” he said at a news conference. “My first step is just so bad on this stuff. I feel like I’m always shuffling or hopping or not stopping or something. My footwork on this stuff now is just really bad.”

The American, who before yesterday’s match on Court Suzanne Lenglen had won four straight meetings against Mahut, has never got past the third round on the slow clay-court surface in Paris. Mahut, known for playing the longest match in history against John Isner of the U.S. at Wimbledon in 2010, had lost in the opening round eight times in 10 appearances at the French Open.

Li Na Begins Defense

On today’s schedule, China’s Li Na starts her title defense against Romania’s Sorona Cirstea while Novak Djokovic plays Italy’s Potito Starace. The top-ranked Serb is trying to become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win four majors in a row. Roger Federer of Switzerland, the champion in 2009, starts against Germany’s Tobias Kamke. Women’s top seed and Australian Open winner Victoria Azarenka faces Italy’s Alberta Brianti.

Williams of the U.S. overcame Argentina’s Paula Ormaechea, one of six teenagers in the women’s draw, 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 yesterday. Williams, 31, is playing her first Grand Slam since she pulled out of the U.S. Open last year with Sjogren’s syndrome, an energy-sapping autoimmune disease. Williams, runner-up in Paris in 2002, is a seven-time major champion. The American, one of 14 players older than 30 in the women’s draw, gave a thumbs-up sign to her parents after her win.

“It’s a big accomplishment for me to be here right now,” Williams, whose win improved her chances of making the London Olympics, told reporters. “I just learned how to live with this. It’s different. I have a lot to learn still.”

Olympic Criterion

Players have to be ranked within the top 56 to have a chance at automatic qualification for the Olympics, which start July 27. Williams is currently ranked 53rd.

U.S. Open champion Stosur of Australia started her quest for a first French Open title with a straight-sets win over Britain’s Elena Baltacha. Former champion Svetlana Kuznetsova also won.

The sixth-seeded Stosur defeated the 68th-ranked Baltacha 6-4, 6-0 on Court Philippe Chatrier.

“It was good,” Stosur said. “Very happy with the way I played and the score line and everything else.”

‘Very Difficult’

The Australian, who made nine unforced errors and struck 23 winners, last year won her first major singles title when she defeated Serena Williams at the U.S. Open. Stosur said the high-bouncing center court at Roland Garros suited her game of heavy top-spin forehand and kick-serve.

“I knew it was going to be a very difficult match, I did play one of the best clay-court players in the world,” Baltacha told a news conference.

Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 2009 winner, also won easily. The Russian, a former U.S. Open champion, defeated Croatia’s Mirjana Lucic, 6-1, 6-3.

Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina, the 2009 U.S. Open champion, beat Spain’s Albert Montanes, 6-2, 6-7 (5-7), 6-2, 6-1. Ana Ivanovic, the 2008 winner from Serbia, advanced by beating Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino of Spain, 6-1, 6-1.

Fifth-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, one of 17 Frenchmen in the main draw, defeated Russia’s Andrey Kuznetsov 1-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. Michael Berrer of Germany ousted Austria’s Jurgen Melzer, the No. 30 seed and a former semifinalist, 6-7 (5-7), 4-6, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3. Croatia’s Marin Cilic, the No. 21 seed, defeated Daniel Munoz-De La Nava of Spain 6-4, 6-4, 7-5.

American wild card Melanie Oudin moved to the second round by beating Sweden’s Johanna Larsson, 6-3, 6-3. It was Oudin’s first win in the main draw of a major since the 2010 U.S. Open.

Oudin had a breakthrough year in 2009, when she upset three seeded Russian players to reach the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open when she was 17 years old. After reaching a career-high ranking of No. 31 in 2010, Oudin has dropped to No. 269.

“I played well,” Oudin said in a news conference. “I played some really, really good points, better than I’ve played in a long time. It’s my first win ever at Roland Garros, so definitely a good feeling.”

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