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 1-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 yesterday, 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 yesterday, while John Isner and Taylor Dent won Monday.
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.
Roddick's was not the only successful return yesterday, 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.
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 yesterday, 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 2 1/2 months older in 1985.