Bryan Armen Graham
Tuesday May 26th, 2009

The expectations for American players at this year's French Open started with Serena and ended with Venus. But the first few days in Paris produced some encouraging results for the Yanks, highlighted by the performance of a teenager making her Roland Garros debut.

One day after Andy Roddick won his first match at the French Open since 2005, Alexa Glatch, 19, of Newport Beach, Calif., engineered the biggest early surprise by routing 14th-seeded Flavia Pannetta 6-1, 6-1 on Monday.

"Even though the scoreline may look like it was pretty easy, it definitely wasn't out there," Glatch told The Associated Press. "It's never easy to beat a top 20 player like that."

Glatch rose to prominence at last month's Fed Cup, joining the U.S. team as a late replacement for the semifinals when the Williams sisters opted not to participate. She responded by winning both her singles matches -- including a victory against then-No. 29 Iveta Benesova of the Czech Republic -- to help the United States book a place in the November finals.

The U.S. success was particularly rewarding for Glatch, who had a motor scooter accident in 2005 that nearly derailed her career. Just months after turning pro and signing an endorsement contract with Nike, Glatch broke both her arms after slamming on the brakes to avoid hitting a dog. She was sidelined for eight months.

Next up for Glatch is a second-round date with Spain's Lourdes Dominguez Lino, whose lone WTA singles title came against Pennetta in 2006.

Glatch wasn't the only California native with a feel-good story in the opening days at Roland Garros. Robert Kendrick, a 29-year-old ATP veteran with no previous wins at the French Open, served 34 aces in a 6-7 (7), 7-5, 7-6 (11), 4-6, 6-3 victory against Germany's Daniel Brands.

Kendrick's one other appearance at Roland Garros came in 2007, when the American men combined for a 0-9 record.

Few expect former major winners Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic to contend for the title at Roland Garros, with both players struggling to overcome physical ailments.

But each demonstrated mettle while advancing to the second round.

Sharapova, whose ranking has plummeted to No. 102 after entering last year's French Open at No. 1, rallied to beat Anastasiya Yakimova of Belarus 3-6, 6-1, 6-2. This is Sharapova's second tournament since returning from a shoulder injury that kept her out for nearly 10 months.

Ivanovic, whose game has languished since winning her first and only major title last year in Paris, opened her title defense by getting past Italy's Sara Errani. The 21-year-old Serb converted just five of 20 break points, double-faulted seven times and committed 38 unforced errors -- but managed to hold on for a 7-6 (3), 6-3 victory.

"I expected a tough match," Ivanovic told reporters afterward. "I knew I had to work hard for my points today, and I'm very happy I did that. I kept my composure even when I was making a few mistakes."

Back on U.S. soil, Mississippi's Devin Britton became the youngest men's singles champion in the history of the NCAA Division I tennis tournament Monday in College Station, Texas.

The 18-year-old freshman, an IMG Tennis Academy attendee before his enrollment at Ole Miss, came back to defeat Ohio State's Steven Moneke 3-6, 6-2, 6-3, snapping the senior's 22-match winning streak.

"I definitely surprised myself and didn't see this coming," Britton told The Associated Press.

Another freshman phenom shone in the women's final, as Duke's Mallory Cecil knocked off Miami's Laura Vallverdu 7-5, 6-4. Cecil, who turns 19 in July, went through the draw of 64 without dropping a set.

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