Andy Roddick's exit, Melanie Oudin's turnaround headline Day 1 in Paris
Day 1 of the French Open is in the books, and while the American women had a perfect day, Andy Roddick won't be buying Paris a box of bonbons anytime soon. Here's a rundown of Sunday's action.
Roddick tumbles out: Despite coming in on a four-match losing streak, Roddick had reason to hope that things might break his way. After all, Roddick may be a subpar dirtballer, but Nicolas Mahut is noticeably worse. The 30-year old grass-court marathoner had won only one match at Roland Garros going into Sunday with a measly six career wins on clay (SIX!). But no such luck for Roddick. Mahut played as well as he's ever played on clay (or any surface, for that matter) and zoned for a good portion of the match, beating Roddick 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2.
Everyone knows Roddick hasn't been 100 percent after the Australian Open, where he injured his hamstring. He's struggled to find the balance between protecting his body and getting the requisite match play to feel comfortable on the court. But when you can't trust your legs, and you're playing on a surface that requires trusting your movement, it's never going to end well. Roddick admitted he didn't have a whole lot of confidence.
"I move just horrendously out here," Roddick told reporters after falling to 9-10 all time at the French Open. "My first step is just so bad on this stuff. I feel like I'm always shuffling or hopping or not stopping or something. So my footwork on this stuff now is just really bad."
Roddick has never been one to use injuries as an excuse.
"I'm not going to talk about this tonight, guys," he said, referring to his injuries and rehabilitation. "I lost a match to a guy who played better than I did. I made a choice. I played. I'm fine. I lost."
Melanie Oudin snaps her streak: The Oudin turnaround continues. The 20-year-old already has more wins in 2012 than she did in all of 2011, and on Sunday she notched her first complete-match win over a top-100 player in more than a year, defeating Johanna Larsson 6-3, 6-3. The victory broke her five-match losing streak at Slams and gives her a shot at Sara Errani in Round 2. But can anyone help her rent her apartment? Let's not force the kid to turn to the dangerous minefield that is Craigslist.
Tsonga under no pressure: When is the last time you heard a top-ranked player say he or she felt no pressure playing at a Slam in his or her home country? Look no further than Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who famously told L'Equipe last week that he didn't think any Frenchmen had a chance to win Roland Garros this year. Tsonga reiterated that belief after beating Andrey Kuznetsov 1-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.
"I haven't won the U.S. Open, the Australian Open or Wimbledon," Tsonga helpfully pointed out. "So of course I have an ambition to win one day. If it's in two weeks' time, well, all the best. But I'm quite pragmatic. You have to be sometimes."
Ah, the mind games an athlete plays with himself or herself. It's always fascinating. Tsonga, the top-ranked Frenchman, crowd favorite and fifth-ranked player in the world, went on to say he actually felt no pressure in Paris. At all.
"I have nothing to lose," Tsonga said. "I have no points to lose. Last time I lost in the third round. If I was to lose in the first round, I would lose 90 [rankings] points, so that's peanuts. And, for me, going further in this tournament, it's wonderful because it's at home. But I have nothing to lose. It's not my favorite surface at the moment. So far I haven't scored many points here. Trust me, I'll have more pressure in Wimbledon than here."
Ivanovic through with a bang: It's not just that Ana Ivanovic kicked off her Roland Garros campaign with a 6-1, 6-1 win over 20-year-old Spaniard Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino; it's the way she did it. Ivanovic struggled with her first serve, but other than that, she put down the most impressive performance by a seed Sunday. The 2008 French Open champion hit 27 winners, many with some bone-crushing authority on her forehand side, something we haven't seen her do consistently until the last few months.
"Once you start to believe and you start doing things, then that's when it matters the most," she said after the win.
There was a time when her repeated assurances that she believed in her ability to get back to the top sounded like crazy talk. Not so much now. The difference between the Ivanovic now and the Ivanovic then is that this one is actually backing up her belief by executing. I picked Ivanovic to make the semifinals in my "bold prediction" in SI.com's expert roundtable. Based on this performance, I'm not sure that prediction was all that out there.
No more Sunday starts, s'il vous plait: Credit to the French Open for experimenting with the Sunday start. Given the unpredictable Paris weather, why not build an extra day into the schedule and play the tournament over 15 days rather than 14? Makes sense, right? Maybe it does from a pragmatic perspective, but it sure doesn't in terms of optics.
Did any of Sunday's matches have any of the buzz of the start of a Slam? Fans and pundits seemed to begrudgingly tune in to a schedule that saw none of the top four men or top five women in action, and the order of play looked like it came from the early rounds of a tour-level tournament. No one seemed to be ready, as the Roland Garros website experienced serious problems with its official scoreboard (an hour after the match had concluded it still listed Venus Williams in a third set against Paula Ormaechea), NBC listed erroneous results in its score update crawl, and Tennis Channel unknowingly left its mics hot so that some fans streaming at home could hear the producers and on-air talent chatter during breaks. There were reports that fans were selling their grounds passes because of the lack of quality matches. It's an insufficient roll-out that doesn't make the players or fans happy.
So here's my proposal: Get the top players to kick off their tournaments Sunday (how about the defending champions taking Chatrier on Sunday?), or just shelve the whole endeavor. If the tournament wants to line its pockets with an extra day of gate sales, then it has to provide a product that's worth buying.
Miscellaneous: The American women went 4-0, with Williams, Oudin, Alexa Glatch and Irina Falconi all scoring victories. ... Juan Martin del Potro has been struggling with a knee injury he picked up in Madrid (darn you, blue clay!) and was heavily taped during his win over Albert Montanes. ... On a toasty day in Paris, five men's matches went the full five sets, with the most impressive result being Michael Berrer's comeback from two sets down to beat No. 30 Jurgen Melzer 6-7 (5), 4-6, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3. ... The Kevin Anderson-Rui Machado match was called for darkness at 7-7 in the fifth set. ... Caroline Wozniacki has hired Thomas Johansson as her new coach. All respect to both parties, but I'm not sure anyone can take her coaching hires seriously until we stop seeing her father, Piotr, berating her during coaching timeouts.
Quote of the Day
"As athletes, we're preconditioned to hope sometimes. Coming into this, I didn't have much to kind of prop myself up on. But, you know, I played a guy who it's not his favorite surface either, so there was a chance. You just don't know. So if everyone pulled out of every tournament when they weren't feeling great or confident, we wouldn't have a lot of fields that were much to write home about. We'd have about four people in most draws."-- Andy Roddick, after his first-round loss to Nicolas Mahut.