Andy Roddick can look as uneasy on clay as a tourist with a fear of heights climbing the Eiffel Tower and the 29-year-old American made his traditional early exit from the French Open here yesterday.
Increasingly beset by injuries, Roddick had played only three matches on clay this year going into Roland Garros, losing all three of them, and was beaten 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 by Nicolas Mahut, the world No 89. It was his first exit from a Grand Slam tournament in the opening round for five years.
Roddick fell this week to No 33 in the world rankings and at this rate could find himself unseeded at Wimbledon. The former world No 1 has rarely looked at his best ever since his memorable 2009 Wimbledon final against Roger Federer. In subsequent Grand Slam tournaments his best showings have been quarter-final appearances at the 2010 Australian Open and the 2011 US Open.
Mahut had lost in the first round here on eight of his previous nine appearances – he made the second round in 2010 – and had lost all four of his previous meetings with Roddick, but the 30-year-old Frenchman rarely looked in danger. Roddick, whose latest problem has been a hamstring injury, briefly raised American hopes when he took the third set and made an early break in the fourth but Mahut quickly regained command.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is one of the main home hopes this year, but the world No 5 has had some indifferent results ever since losing to John Isner on clay in the Davis Cup at Monte Carlo last month. An even bigger shock seemed on the cards after his first set against Russia's Andrey Kuznetsov, but Tsonga recovered to win 1-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.
Juan Martin del Potro had lengthy treatment for a problem with his left knee, which he had strapped after losing the second set to Albert Montanes. It appeared to do the trick as the Argentine won 12 of the next 15 games to take the match 6-2, 6-7, 6-2, 6-1.
Juan Carlos Ferrero, who won his only Grand Slam title here nine years ago, beat France's Jonathan Dasnières de Veigy in straight sets, but Stanislas Wawrinka, the world No 21, was pushed all the way by Italy's Flavio Cipolla, eventually winning 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 3-6, 6-2.
Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic play their first matches this afternoon, but Andy Murray will have to wait at least another day before facing Japan's Tatsuma Ito. The world No 68 does not have much in common with the world No 4, but he revealed yesterday that he shared Murray's admiration for Andre Agassi when growing up and said he had even shaved his head like the American.
"I will do my best and be aggressive on every point," said Ito. "I played doubles against [Murray] last year in Japan and all I remember is he has a good serve – but doubles is not like singles."
Phillipe Chatrier (10am)
1 V Azarenka (Bela) v A Brianti (It), 7 Li Na (China) v S Cirstea (Rom), 1 N Djokovic (Serb) v P Starace (It), 11 G Simon (Fr) v R Harrison (US)
Suzanne Lenglen (9am)
Second match on court: 3 R Federer (Swit) v T Kamke (Ger)
Court One (10am)
F Serra (Fr) v 15 F Lopez (Sp).
Fourth match: 3 A Radwanska (Pol) v B Jovanovski (Serb)
Court Two (10am)
P Mayr-Achleitner (Aut) v 19 J Jankovic (Serb), T Babos (Hun) v 11 V Zvonareva (Rus), R Dutra Silva (Br) v 10 J Isner (US)
Court Six (10am)
29 A M Garrigues (Sp) v L Robson (GB)