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Roddick opens clay court season with a win

Andy Roddick was more than satisfied after opening his clay-court season with a win over 2004 French Open champion Gaston Gaudio.

sports Updated: May 10, 2007 12:15 IST

Andy Roddick was more than satisfied after opening his clay-court season with a win over 2004 French Open champion Gaston Gaudio.

It didn't matter to the American that Gaudio's ranking has fallen to No 71 and that the Argentine is considering retirement. "I don't think he's long on confidence right now. But at the same time, this is the most challenging surface for me," Roddick said after his 6-1, 7-6 (8) win in the second round of the Rome Masters.

"If there was a time to beat him and be a little bit proud of it, it's on this surface."

Also Wednesday, Rafael Nadal overcame stiff resistance from Italian wild card Daniele Bracciali on his way to a 6-4, 6-2 victory. Nadal extended his clay-court winning streak to 73 matches and is attempting to become the first player to win this tournament three consecutive times.

Fourth-seeded Nikolay Davydenko beat Davis Cup teammate Marat Safin 7-6 (4), 7-5, and fifth-seeded Novak Djokovic, who won his third title of the season at Estoril on Sunday, rallied to beat Robin Soderling 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.

Also, Nicolas Massu of Chile upset ninth-seeded James Blake 7-6 (3), 7-5, Filippo Volandri of Italy eliminated 13th-seeded Richard Gasquet 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-4 and Gilles Simon of France beat Guillermo Canas 7-6 (4), 6-4.

Canas is a former top-10 player whose ranking dropped during a 15-month doping suspension. He reached the final in Barcelona, Spain, last month, losing to Nadal, and beat Roger Federer twice on hard courts earlier this year.

Nadal, Roddick and the other top six seeded players received first-round byes.

After breezing through the first set, Roddick required five match points to close his match out.

Roddick was playing for the first time since injuring his hamstring in a Davis Cup win over Spain's Fernando Verdasco last month. He attacked well and even showed some clay-court savvy, pulling off a difficult backhand drop-shot winner to set up his first match point.

"It's probably the first time and last time where if you asked me what my best shot was, I'd say my drop shot," Roddick said. "I've been trying to work on it a little more." This tournament is an important clay-court warmup for the French Open, which begins May 27.

Roddick, who has never advanced past the third round at Roland Garros, explained why Americans traditionally struggle on clay. "It's tough for us because the movement is something that we probably didn't acquire at a young age. Kind of like a language," Roddick said. "If you learn it at 3 or 4 years old it's going to be a lot easier for you. But if you're trying to get it at 16-17, it's going to be tougher to learn."

Roddick will next face Juan Ignacio Chela.

While he appeared to run out of energy, the 125th-ranked Bracciali displayed a possible plan for how to give Nadal trouble. Bracciali served to Nadal's backhand and consistently won points when he followed his serve into the net. The Italian also varied the pace of his shots well during a stretch in the first set when he won three of four games to get to 3-4.

"He never makes any errors so it's tough to win points. The only chance is to try and attack," Bracciali said. "When the rallies last longer he's too tough to handle."

Nadal said he felt dizzy.

"It was very difficult for me in the first eight games," he said. "Before the match I went to see the doctor and he said it was nothing. Now I'm going back."

Nadal will next face 15th-seeded Mikhail Youzhny, who the Spaniard lost to on hard courts in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, earlier this year and at the U.S. Open last year. Youzhny eliminated Olivier Rochus 7-6 (7), 6-3.

"He's one of the more difficult players for me," Nadal said of Youzhny. "If I don't play my best tennis, it's going to be a very difficult match."

First Published: May 10, 2007 11:55 IST