First and foremost, the footing is tricky as can be. The soft courts take his booming serves and forehands down a notch, too. Put simply, his game is built for hard or grass courts. As if that weren’t enough, he arrived at this French Open having played only 16 matches in a season interrupted by injuries to his right hamstring and right ankle.
If Roddick were tempted to sit out Roland Garros altogether — or tempted to use his health or rust as an excuse for playing poorly — he did not. The 26th-seeded American, once ranked No. 1 and once a Grand Slam champion, gave it a shot and came up short yesterday, exiting in a major tournament’s opening round for the first time since 2007, and at the same venue.
His 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 loss to 88th-ranked Nicolas Mahut at the French Open dropped Roddick’s record to 7-10 this season, 0-4 on clay. Of the seven previous major title winners in action on Day 1 in Paris, including Venus Williams in her first Grand Slam match since revealing in August she was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, only Roddick was beaten.
“Wasn’t playing really well. I move just horrendously out here. My first step is just so bad on this stuff,” Roddick said. “I feel like I’m always shuffling or hopping or not stopping or something.”
Like Roddick, and for much the same reasons, Williams is not nearly as comfortable on clay as faster surfaces.
She’s also dealing with the difficult process of learning to live with Sjogren’s syndrome, a condition that can cause fatigue and joint pain. But the 31-year-old Williams, a seven-time major champion, overcame a slow start to beat 19-year-old Paula Ormaechea of Argentina 4-6, 6-1, 6-3.
“A lot of it, I have to figure it out. It’s physical and emotional and all kinds of different things. Mental,” Williams said of her medical condition. “It’s a big accomplishment for me to be here right now.”
The other past major champions who won yesterday were Juan Martin del Potro, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Sam Stosur, Ana Ivanovic and Svetlana Kuznetsova. Today’s schedule includes Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Victoria Azarenka and Li Na.