Updated: May 30, 2010, 11:31 AM ET

Paris pitfalls continue for Roddick

Garber By Greg Garber

PARIS -- Andy Roddick reached the fourth round here last year at the French Open, a career best, and coming into the 2010 event there was modest optimism about his chances to repeat that feat -- even though he hadn't played a single clay-court match as preparation.

He won his first two matches, grinding it out on the damp dirt, but with the non-threatening Russian Teimuraz Gabashvili standing between him and a return to the round of 16, Roddick couldn't summon the necessary energy. Gabashvili bludgeoned him off the slow and cloying Court Suzanne Lenglen 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 in less than two hours.

Gabashvili is the No. 116-ranked player in the world -- had lost six of seven ATP matches this year. He's now won six straight, including qualifying.

"He was just taking control from the first ball," Roddick observed. "His swings are big enough to where he can create length when [conditions are] heavy. I wasn't on top of anything today. I was very uncomfortable; when I was getting stretched, my movement was horrendous.

"Maybe that's just match preparation coming in. I mean, I was trying too much to put a Band-Aid on a problem, as opposed to an actual solution. If you're not moving well, you're not going to hit the ball well."

Ultimately, Roddick's approach to Roland Garros is a rational one.

He will never win this tournament, in which he's now 9-9 overall. Wimbledon and the U.S. Open represent his best chances to win a second major, so he will never invest too much time preparing. He skipped Monte Carlo this year to celebrate his one-year anniversary with wife Brooklyn Decker and pulled out of Madrid with a stomach illness.

Roddick has lost matches on Lenglen five times now, a court he calls his least favorite in the world. He's not the kind of clay-court player they feature on the No. 1 court, Philippe Chatrier, and since he's a former world No. 1, the French Federation won't relegate him to the smaller, faster outside courts.

"I understand it," Roddick said. "I just probably wouldn't prefer it."

Gabashvili was a revelation, hitting 58 winners -- 44 more than Roddick -- something Brad Gilbert, Roddick's former coach, called "mind-boggling."

"I mean, Gabashvili absolutely rocks the ball," Gilbert said. "Him and the Russian, [Evgeny] Korolev, they might hit it harder than anyone in the world. I'm watching the match and I'm thinking, 'How is that guy ranked No. 116?'

"He wins one match on tour, and now the guy's won six matches here. Really? It just shows you how much tennis is played between the ears."

There was drama with America's No. 1 woman as well. Serena Williams weathered a dizzy patch and survived Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-1, 1-6, 6-2 to advance to the fourth round.

Maybe it was all the attention that sister Venus was getting from her racy red dress. Perhaps she was just looking for a free checkup. Whatever the reason, Serena called for a doctor while she was trailing 0-5 in the second set. He took her temperature and gave her a few tablets, which she downed with water.

Who says they don't make house calls anymore?

After losing the second set, she whacked the 18-year-old Russian in the third. Now she's into the fourth round for the eighth time and will face Shahar Peer, who knocked out French favorite Marion Bartoli in straight sets.

"In the second game of the first set, I was like `Oh, no,' " Serena said. "But I just started going for shots. I'm really happy to get through that one."

The top-seeded Bryan brothers added to the misery of Americans, losing to the smoking-hot team of Brazilians Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares, 3-6, 6-7 (6). A Mike Bryan forehand was sprayed long, and the California twins were drummed out of a Grand Slam event at their earliest juncture in nearly nine years -- going back to the 2001 U.S. Open.

It was a stunning loss, even though the Brazilians are a formidable pair and are coming off a win last week in Nice, France.

They had hoped to set the all-time record for doubles titles here at the scene of their first major championship, but now will try to break the record they currently share with Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde at Wimbledon.

The Bryans confirmed that they were flying home to Florida on Sunday -- leaving Europe for the first time ever between the French Open and Wimbledon. They've been here for nearly seven straight weeks, going back to Monte Carlo.

"We didn't come into the match with hunger and desperation," Mike Bryan said. "We've never come into a Slam playing this well. Maybe there was some overconfidence. Maybe we were mentally tired."

The Bryans struggled with their energy level throughout: "We're not morning guys," Bob observed -- and just collapsed in the second set after leading 5-2. They also led 6-4 in the tiebreaker and couldn't convert.

"Give me two points there, even one, and we're off to the races," Bob said. "They were fired up to play us. They were going for a huge win. We're used to being targets."

Greg Garber is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

Three things I KNOW I think

1. It hasn't been all bad for the Americans in Paris: After Serena Williams struggled with dizziness in her three-set victory over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova on Friday, she received a small gift from the doubles team of Daniela Hantuchova and Caroline Wozniacki -- a few hours off.

Hantuchova and Wozniacki, both into the fourth round in the singles draw, chose to forfeit the match and focus on their individual games. The Williams sisters, who do this all the time -- Serena won the Australian Open and also teamed with Venus to win doubles -- are into the third round. Next up: Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka.

2. Upset: The pork tenderloin in the broadcast dining hall for lunch was exquisite: Usually, it's pretty heavy going with a steady diet of ordinary steak and fish, but Roland Garros finally delivered a dish worthy of the finest Parisian chefs.

3. This is why we watch the games: In the second game of the second set between Robby Ginepri and Juan Carlos Ferrero, a Ferrero forehand was called out, but the chair umpire overruled the call and ordered a replay of the point. Then Ginepri hit a backhand down the line, which was also called out. The chair umpire overruled and asked for a second replay.

"You ever see two replays in a row?" asked the irrepressible Bud Collins from his courtside seat. "Never have … in history."

Now that's saying something. Collins has been covering tennis for 55 years. And this is his 151st major.

Greg Garber is a senior writer for ESPN.com.


You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?