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Roddick needs five sets to advance at French Open first round

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

PARIS -- Andy Roddick's preparation for this French Open was hardly traditional. Or ideal, from a purely tennis perspective, anyway.

He skipped a clay-court event in Rome so he could celebrate his one-year wedding anniversary with his wife, Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover model Brooklyn Decker. He missed another tuneup tournament in Madrid because of a stomach virus.

Scrambling to get set, Roddick played a couple of hastily arranged exhibitions and practiced a bunch at Roland Garros with fellow pro Mardy Fish, a pal since high school. If Roddick felt he needed more match time on his least favorite surface, he accumulated it in a hurry Tuesday, digging himself out of a hole and coming back to beat Jarkko Nieminen of Finland 6-2, 4-6, 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-3 in the French Open's first round.

"It's kind of like when you miss an assignment in school, and they give you a chance to get extra credit. I've been trying real hard to get extra credit ... and I definitely wasn't match-tough," the sixth-seeded Roddick said. "There was a lot of ugliness out there today. But at the end of it, I get to play again."

So does a group of other Americans: Roddick and Fish are among five U.S. men into the second round, equaling the largest contingent at this Grand Slam tournament since six made it in 1998. Robby Ginepri knocked off 18th-seeded Sam Querrey 4-6, 7-6 (3), 6-4, 6-2 in an all-American match Tuesday, while John Isner and Taylor Dent won Monday.

Querrey is a 22-year-old from Santa Monica, Calif., who had the best clay-court season of any U.S. man, winning a title at Belgrade, Serbia, this month. But after falling to 0-4 for his career at the French Open, Querrey described feeling what sounded like burnout. He said he'll fly home immediately and pull out of doubles; he was supposed to play with Isner.

"Not into it. Mentally not there. I mean, you know what? I don't know. Just did not enjoy myself out there. It's been like that on and off for, like, a while," Querrey said. "I don't want to be fighting myself out there and also fighting the opponent."

Roddick, the 2003 U.S. Open champion, hadn't competed on clay since last year's French Open, when he reached the fourth round for the first time -- and he hadn't played on tour anywhere since April 4, when he won the hard-court title at Key Biscayne, Fla.

"Spending three days in bed in Madrid wasn't the way we wrote it up," he said. "That was bad."

Roddick's was not the only successful return Monday, when winners included four-time French Open champions Justine Henin and Rafael Nadal, as well as Maria Sharapova, who's won the other three major tournaments.

Playing at Roland Garros for the first time since 2007, Henin beat Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria 6-4, 6-3 to run her winning streaks at her favorite event to 22 matches and 37 sets.

Henin won titles at Roland Garros in 2003 and 2005-07, before taking a 20-month hiatus from tennis, and while she said before the event that she does not consider herself the defending champion, her skills make her a serious contender for another trophy.

Upon returning, Henin said, she was "very nervous, which was normal. It's my tournament, and I didn't know really how I was going to deal with my emotions."

When it comes to time away, she's got nothing on Kimiko Date Krumm, who entered the French Open for the first time since 1996. Yes, you read that correctly: 1996.

Date Krumm retired at the end of that season, then resumed playing in 2008 at her husband's urging, and made quite a stir Tuesday, stunning former No. 1 Dinara Safina 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 to become, at 39 years, 7 months, the oldest woman to win a match at Roland Garros since Virginia Wade was 21/2 months older in 1985.

"If I lost, still, I'm very happy to be here," Date Krumm said.

She won despite a heavily bandaged right calf and a foot injury that made her wonder if she'd be able to play in the second round. Safina was the runner-up at the French Open each of the past two years, but she was undone by 17 double-faults and the same inability to close out a match she's displayed in the past.

"I will have to swallow this loss and keep on moving," said Safina, younger sister of two-time major champion Marat Safin. "After rain, always sun comes."

Nadal also sought to look on the bright side after assessing his play as "really bad" while overwhelming the youngest player in the men's draw, 18-year-old French wild card Gianni Mina, 6-2, 6-2, 6-2.

A year ago, Nadal's 31-match French Open winning streak ended with a fourth-round upset against Robin Soderling, but he figures he is on his way to a new run, saying that he remembers having what he considered spotty starts in the first round each of the four years he went on to win the title.

"I know I have to refocus and calm down and move forward," Nadal said. "I think I will have no problems."

Roddick showed some rust, to be sure, but he also hit 19 aces and lost his serve only twice. Three points from defeat while ahead 5-4 in the tiebreaker, he hit a deft-touch forehand chip for a winner, then smacked a big forehand approach shot to close the set.

"I've been saying all week if I can get through the first one or the second one," said Roddick, whose last three Grand Slam tournaments ended with five-set losses, including the epic 16-14 defeat against Roger Federer at Wimbledon, "then maybe I will start hitting my stride and playing a little bit better."

Two U.S. women won Tuesday, too, to join Serena and Venus Williams in the second round: Jill Craybas and Bethanie Mattek-Sands.

"It's a challenge for us because a lot of Americans don't grow up on the clay," said Craybas, who beat Katie O'Brien of Britain 6-0, 4-6, 6-2. "The men and women are both embracing the challenge."