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Roddick back in Atlanta on late wild card

Andy Roddick's new, shaven-headed look may be just what he needs in the summer swelter of North America as the 2001 champion returns to the latest iteration of the Atlanta ATP event, back on the calendar after a lengthy absence.

sports Updated: Jul 20, 2010 19:19 IST

Andy Roddick's new, shaven-headed look may be just what he needs in the summer swelter of North America as the 2001 champion returns to the latest iteration of the Atlanta ATP event, back on the calendar after a lengthy absence.

"The haircut was my idea," said the three-time Wimbledon winner, who crashed out in the fourth round to Taiwan's Lu Yen-Hsun on the grass in a heartbreaking match three weeks ago. "I must have been having a Britney Spears moment."

The popstar also shaved her head amid a mental breakdown several years ago.

The wild-card entry will begin his Atlanta campaign after a bye, facing fellow US player Rajeev Ram, who reached the second round over Slovak Karol Beck 6-4, 7-6(4).

Germans suffered a split decision on a hot day, with Michael Russell putting out eighth seed Benjamin Becker 6-3, 6-3. But veteran Rainer Schuettler took a German win, defeating Teimuraz Gabashvili of Russia 6-1, 6-4.

Roddick, whose 26-4 hard-court record this season leads the ATP on the surface in 2010, said that he made a late decision to play in Atlanta, where he won the first title of his career as a raw teenager nearly a decade ago.

"I guess that makes me the defending champion," joked the world number nine, whose title coincided with the demise of the tournament.

"I've only played eight events this year. I was sitting around last week and made the decision - I want to play again. There is something that can only be achieved in playing real matches that count for something."

Despite his recent Wimbledon disappointment, Roddick owns titles already this season in Brisbane and the Masters 1000 in Miami.

"I hadn't thought much about playing, but there is definitely room for improvement in my game. Having a late start (and a bye in the first round) made the decision to play in Atlanta a lot easier," he said.

The Atlanta event rose from the dead this year after the rich US federation stumped up the cash to buy the sanction of the bankrupt Indianapolis event, which Roddick formerly played.

The week will be a test of the market in a city that brags that it has more registered tennis players - 100,000 - than any other.

Steamy conditions are promised.

"I've been three or four places in the past few weeks - everyone brags about their heat," joked Roddick, based in hothouse Texas.

"But hot is hot, you always deal with it in summer in the states."

Third seed Lleyton Hewitt is starting his US Open buildup in Atlanta, flying in from his base in the Bahamas. He played in the city 11 years ago on green clay.

"I'm quite comfortable on the hard courts," said the Australian, planning a full schedule after make a huge comeback from his second hip surgery earlier this year.

"I don't think it's too early to start. I'll take next week and one more off before the Open (from Aug 30)."