© Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Andy Roddick lost to Nicolas Mahut in four sets.
© PATRICK KOVARIK/Getty Images
By Matt Cronin, special to USTA.com
PARIS, France - Opening day at 2012 Roland Garros was a good one for the U.S. women, but the sole U.S. male, who played, Andy Roddick, was less than pleased after his defeat.
Still after spending much of 2012 battling injuries (which he hates to talk about) Roddick can’t be too hard on himself, even though he was curt and clearly displeased at his press conference.
But there was joy on the faces of those who did win, including the veteran Venus Williams, the reviving Melanie Oudin, the spunky Irina Falconi and gutsy qualifier Alexa Glatch, who took a marathon three set win over Anna Tatishvili.
Venus, who is now two months into her comeback after being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, took a tough 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 victory over Argentine teen Paula Ormaechea. The seven-time Grand Slam champion began her comeback in March in Miami and has beaten the notable likes of Petra Kvitova, Jelena Jankovic, Ana Ivanovic and Sam Stosur. Still every day is a new day for her as she does not know how she'll feel when she wakes up. And that's a big challenge.
"I just learned how to live with this," she said. "It's different. I have a lot to learn still. I learn a lot every week, especially having to play a professional sport. So that's a challenge, just learning to live.... It's physical and emotional and all kinds of different things, mental. So it's just something that you can only get if you live it. So I get it. So I have to learn to laugh sometimes."
Oudin won her first Grand Slam match since the 2010 US Open, which by the way, was her first WTA main draw win not due to a retirement since April 2011. The 20-year-old began to revive back in April in Charleston, when she qualified for the tournament and won her first match of any kind during the year. The 2009 US Open quarterfinalist then won a USTA Challenger in Charlottesville, and eventually earned herself the USTA wild card into Roland Garros.
"It really was a confidence thing," she said. "And also, I was putting so much pressure on myself. Now I feel like I am the underdog, and really just being able to go out there and play my game and play to win and not worry about anything else."
Last October, Oudin split with her longtime coach, Brian de Villiers and moved to Boca Raton, Fla. to work USTA Player Development. She then moved up to New York to work with the general manager of USTA Player Development, Patrick McEnroe and coache,s Jorge Todero and Jay Gooding, who also work with top young American Christina McHale. She and McHale have become friends and they played doubles together last week in Brussels.
On Sunday at Roland Garros, she hit with McEnroe on site, not just to get some tips but to help him practice for the legends doubles, which he will play with his brother John next week.
" I think it's definitely been like the right fit for me," Oudin said. "I think ever since switching with my coach, I guess I never really found the right fit, and I think in New York I finally did with Jorge and Jay. They've been great at really like helping boost my confidence. I think that's the biggest thing getting back."
What Oudin is showing now and what she did not display last year was a willingness to grind out points, stick with her relentless counterpunching style and not get overanxious in trying to overpower foes. Plus, despite her deep slump she continued to keep her love for the sport.
"Of course I was a little bit down own myself, but I never was like to the point where I was like, giving up or anything like that," she said."I really tried to stay positive. I thought I did a good job of that. I think definitely the worst part of it is over, of my slump. This is definitely a great start."
Roddick, who has never faired well in Paris, fell to France’s Nicolas Mahut 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2, in a contest where he was admittedly out of sorts. He just returned to the tour last week in Germany after taking almost two months off to rehab hip and hamstring injuries. He's having a tough time getting the matches that he needs, and coming back on clay when he has never really trusted his footing on the surface, was even too much to ask of a former No. 1.
"Just from the first ball to get set I just feel like I get exposed too easily out here," he said. "I feel like I'm not set on most shots. If you're not set, it's tough to get match of a flow going. When you don't have much of a flow going, it lends itself to sporadic play. You can't fake it out here. These are the best tournaments in the world. It's tough to lie out here. My footwork on this stuff is really, really bad."
Roddick will not play the Challenger in Nottigham next week on grass, but will play Queen's in two weeks time. He is also planning on playing Wimbledon and the Olympics. He's hoping that once he gets on a familiar surface, his fortunes will turn around.
"It's tough for my mind it kind of click over to [grass] right now," he said. "Obviously that starts a part of the season that I'm probably more comfortable in," he said. There are a lot of guys who know how to play on clay, and it's just second nature to them. I feel that way on grass, so hopefully I can turn it around there."