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Clay aching: Roddick loses in first round of French Open

PARIS -- Easy to understand why Andy Roddick never enjoyed playing on red clay all that much.

First and foremost, the footing is tricky as can be. The soft courts take his booming serves and forehands down a notch, too. Put simply, his game is built for hard or grass courts. As if that weren't enough, he arrived at this French Open having played only 16 matches in a season interrupted by injuries to his right hamstring and right ankle.

If Roddick was tempted to sit out Roland Garros altogether -- or tempted to use his health or rust as an excuse for playing poorly -- he did not. The 26th-seeded American, once ranked No. 1 and once a U.S. Open champion, gave it a shot and came up short Sunday, exiting in a major tournament's opening round for the first time since 2007, and at the same venue.

His 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 loss to 88th-ranked Nicolas Mahut at the French Open dropped Roddick's record to 7-10 this season, 0-4 on clay.

"Wasn't playing really well. I move just horrendously out here. My first step is just so bad on this stuff," Roddick said. "I feel like I'm always shuffling or hopping or not stopping or something."

Mahut hit more aces than Roddick, 13-8, and broke him seven times. Roddick only once made it as far as the fourth round in 10 trips to Roland Garros, in 2009. He's lost in the first round five times now. "I just feel like I get exposed too easily out here," he said. "I feel like I'm not set on most shots . . . 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 here . . . It's tough to lie out here."

Venus wins. Playing in her first major singles match since revealing in August she was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, Venus Williams beat Argentina's 19-year-old Paula Ormaechea, 4-6, 6-1, 6-3.


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