Beaten Roddick criticises ‘horrendous’ surface

Andy Roddick described his movement on the red clay of Roland Garros as “horrendous” as the former world number one made an opening-day exit from the French Open.

Roddick’s 2012 season has been decimated by injury — indicated by a 7-9 win-loss record coming to Paris which included three straight-set defeats at the World Team Championship in Dusseldorf last week.

And his dismal run continued as he lost 6-3 6-3 4-6 6-2 to Frenchman Nicolas Mahut to exit a grand slam event at the first-round stage for the first time since 2007.

The 26th-seed refused to blame a lack of fitness for his demise even though he appeared to hurt a leg at the start of the second set. “I’m fine [but] I wasn’t playing really well,” he said.

“I moved just horrendously out there. My first step is just so bad on this stuff [the clay]. I feel like I’m always shuffling or hopping or not stopping or something.

“I feel like I get exposed too easily. I feel like I’m not set on most shots. If you’re not set, it’s tough to get much of a flow going. When you don’t have much of a flow going, it lends itself to sporadic play. It all adds up.

“You can’t fake it out there. These are the best tournaments in the world. It’s tough to lie out. My footwork on this stuff is really, really bad.”

Fifth-seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and ninth seed Juan Martin Del Potro progressed but both men were taken to fourth sets.

Home favourite Tsonga withstood a first-set barrage from Andrey Kuznetsov before coming through 1-6 6-3 6-2 6-4, while Del Potro struggled with a knee injury on his way to a 6-2 6-7 (5/7) 6-2 6-1 defeat of veteran Spaniard Albert Montanes. Tsonga admitted he was worried by Kuznetsov’s start but realised the world number 160 could not keep it up.

“At the beginning I thought, okay, I need to put more intensity on my first serve or on the first two shots in the rallies,” he said.

“And it worked okay. But by doing that he started scoring quite a few points. Against such a player, you feel, okay, let’s wait for the storm to be over and in half an hour I’ll see what’s going on.”

While Tsonga could be forgiven for working his way into the tournament, Del Potro’s problems may have a more lasting effect.

The Argentinian, the US Open champion in 2009, was seriously hampered by his knee and admitted afterwards it was an ongoing problem.

“The pain started after [the event in] Madrid,” he said. “I’m still working with the physio every day, trying to recover and to feel better for the matches. It is a problem when you can’t find your balance as you’re used to, but I’ll use these few days of rest to get better.

“If I go on the court, it’s because I feel good. I want to continue playing.”

Spaniard Fernando Verdasco, seeded 14th, eased past Steve Darcis, 18th seed Stanislas Wawrinka required five sets to see off Flavio Cipolla while 21st seed Marin Cilic was too strong for Daniel Munoz-De La Nava.

Juan Carlos Ferrero, the winner here in 2003, dropped just eight games in his victory over Jonathan Dasnieres De Veigy. There was one other shock though with 30th seed Jurgen Melzer departing at the hands of Michael Berrer.

Meanwhile Andy Murray believes it would rank as one of the greatest achievements in tennis history if Novak Djokovic were to win a fourth successive grand slam.

The world number one already holds the Wimbledon, US Open and Australian titles and needs the French Open to become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to make it four in a row.

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have both had the chance to achieve the feat in recent years, the Swiss losing twice in French Open finals to Nadal, who succumbed to knee problems and David Ferrer in the Australian Open quarter-finals last year.

“It would be up there. There’s a lot of records that guys have had in streaks,” said Murray.

“Guys have had incredibly impressive and very, very difficult things to do.

“So I don’t know which one is better than the other. But if he was able to do it, which I hope he’s not, it would be an unbelievable effort.”

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