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Roddick survives Finn in 5-set marathon

TBO.com The Associated Press
Published:   |   Updated: March 21, 2013 at 02:26 AM

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Andy Roddick's preparation for this French Open was hardly traditional. Or ideal, from a purely tennis perspective, anyway.

He skipped a clay-court event in Rome so he could celebrate his one-year wedding anniversary with his wife, Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover model Brooklyn Decker. He missed another tuneup tournament in Madrid because of a stomach virus.

Scrambling to get set, Roddick played a couple of hastily arranged exhibitions and practiced a bunch at Roland Garros with fellow pro Mardy Fish, a Tampa resident and a pal since high school. If Roddick felt he needed more match time on his least-favorite surface, he accumulated it in a hurry Tuesday, digging himself out of a hole and coming back to beat Jarkko Nieminen of Finland 6-2, 4-6, 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-3 in the French Open's first round.

"It's kind of like when you miss an assignment in school and they give you a chance to get extra credit. I've been trying real hard to get extra credit ... and I definitely wasn't match-tough," the sixth-seeded Roddick said. "There was a lot of ugliness out there (Tuesday). But at the end of it, I get to play again."

So does a group of other Americans.

Roddick and Fish are among five U.S. men into the second round, equaling the largest contingent at this Grand Slam tournament since six made it in 1998. Robby Ginepri knocked off 18th-seeded Sam Querrey 4-6, 7-6 (3), 6-4, 6-2 in an all-American match Tuesday, a day after John Isner and Taylor Dent advanced.

Roddick's was not the only successful return. Other winners included four-time French Open champions Justine Henin and Rafael Nadal, as well as Maria Sharapova, who has won the other three major tournaments.

Playing at Roland Garros for the first time since 2007, Henin beat Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria 6-4, 6-3 to run her winning streaks at her favorite event to 22 matches and 37 sets.

Kimiko Date Krumm retired at the end of the 1996 season, then resumed playing in 2008 at her husband's urging. She made quite a stir Tuesday, stunning former No. 1 Dinara Safina 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 to become - at 39 years, 7 months - the oldest woman to win a match at Roland Garros since Virginia Wade was 2 1/2 months older in 1985.

Nadal assessed his play as "really bad" while overwhelming the youngest player in the men's draw, 18-year-old French wild-card Gianni Mina, 6-2, 6-2, 6-2.

Roddick showed some rust, to be sure, but he also hit 19 aces and lost his serve only twice. Three points from defeat while ahead 5-4 in the tiebreaker, he hit a deft-touch forehand chip for a winner, then smacked a big forehand approach shot to close the set.

Two U.S. women - Jill Craybas and Bethanie Mattek-Sands - also won to join Serena and Venus Williams in the second round.

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