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Still No Ring for Roddick

Sixth-seeded American gets bounced by Sargsian, and defending champion Costa bounces back in first round.

May 28, 2003|Diane Pucin | Times Staff Writer

PARIS — The defending champion was a game away from being a first-round loser. A frazzled wannabe champion fizzled like a firecracker with a bad fuse. An elegant past champion limped away with a loss and a smile and a desperate hope that she would be back again. A beloved former champion said goodbye with tears, a wave and a deep appreciation for the French Open.

Emotions ran high on the red clay of Stade Roland Garros on Tuesday.

Albert Costa, the unlikely defending champion who had never come close to winning a Grand Slam tournament until coming through here last year and who hasn't won a tournament since, was angry and discombobulated as he tumbled into a 6-7 (3), 2-6, 4-5 deficit to anonymous lucky loser Sergio Roitman of Argentina.

But Costa, unsettled when he felt belittled by being sent to a side court for his first match as defending champion, cursed his rackets, smacked his head and kept hitting. Roitman began cramping. Costa began keeping the ball in the court and, exhausted but relieved, won the last three sets, 7-5, 6-2, 6-2.

Andy Roddick, seeded sixth, came here on a high. He had won a clay-court prep tournament Saturday in Austria. He was healthy, his confidence was soaring.

And his game was a mess.

"No excuses," muttered Roddick's coach, Tarik Benhabiles after Roddick's sloppy 6-7 (3), 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 loss to 44th-ranked Sargis Sargsian, Armenia's best, and only, ATP pro.

"It's between the ears, man," said the 20-year-old Roddick. "I know I can play tennis. I know I have the ability to play really good tennis. It's just been peaks and valleys. All I can do is try to prepare myself, work hard. That's part of sports. Even the Lakers lose sometimes, which means I definitely can lose a few."

But Roddick hasn't won three consecutive Grand Slam tournaments. Or any. He has lost in the first round here twice in a row.

Three-time champion and 12th-seeded Monica Seles, who had played only five tournaments this year because of a foot injury, couldn't put up much of a fight against 20-year-old Nadia Petrova, losing 6-4, 6-0.

Seles, 29, who lost in the first round of a Grand Slam for the first time, said this could be her final Roland Garros appearance.

"I have no idea how my foot will respond," she said. "If I can't start to practice to the level I want, yeah, definitely, this will be my last. If I can, then for sure not. Because this is not the way I would like to leave."

Michael Chang, the 1989 champion when he was 17, would have preferred a better exit. Chang, 31, who has announced this is his last year, lost to Fabrice Santoro, 7-5, 6-1, 6-1, on center court. Chang wept as he received a standing ovation and a framed copy of the 1989 tournament poster.

Chang was one of five American men who lost Tuesday. Only 32-year-old Todd Martin won, beating Jose Acasuso of Argentina, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2.

Other than Costa and Roddick, most of the favored men posted routine wins. No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt kicked away three match points and lost a set to American Brian Vahaly but recovered and won, 6-4, 6-1, 6-7 (6), 6-3. Also advancing to the second round were three-time champion and 15th-seeded Gustavo Kuerten; 2002 Wimbledon runner-up and eighth-seeded David Nalbandian, and last year's French Open runner-up, third-seeded Juan Carlos Ferrero.

In the only other men's upset, Argentina's Agustin Calleri, seeded 18th, lost to countryman Franco Squillari, 7-5, 7-6 (2), 6-3.

Most of the favored women had easy times. No. 2 Kim Clijsters, No. 3 Venus Williams, No. 6 Lindsay Davenport and No. 7 Jennifer Capriati moved on with straight-set wins.

Also, 410th-ranked Corina Morariu, who had returned to the WTA Tour a year ago after fighting leukemia for 14 months and who played her first singles match this year after tearing her rotator cuff, beat No. 44 Daja Bedanova, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3. Morariu hasn't been to the second round of a Grand Slam in three years.



French Open Glance

Highlights from Day 2 of the French Open on Tuesday:

* Men's Seeded Winners: No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt, No. 3 Juan Carlos Ferrero, No. 8 David Nalbandian, No. 9 Albert Costa.

* Men's Seeded Losers: No. 6 Andy Roddick, No. 18 Agustin Calleri.

* Women's Seeded Winners: No. 2 Kim Clijsters, No. 3 Venus Williams, No. 6 Lindsay Davenport, No. 7 Jennifer Capriati.

* Women's Seeded Losers: No. 12 Monica Seles, No. 13 Elena Dementieva, No. 17 Amanda Coetzer.

* American Woes: It wasn't a good day for the American men. Todd Martin was the only U.S. player to advance, and five others were eliminated: Brian Vahaly lost to Hewitt of Australia; Roddick lost to Sargis Sargsian of Armenia; Jan-Michael Gambill lost to Fernando Gonzalez of Chile; Mardy Fish lost to Lars Burgsmuller of Germany; Michael Chang lost to Fabrice Santoro of France.

* Stat of the Day: 1 -- Number of first-round defeats for Monica Seles in 40 major tournaments.

* On TV: Today, 5 a.m., ESPN2; 9:30 a.m., ESPN.

* Playing Today: Women: Serena Williams (1) vs. Marie-Gaianeh Mikaelian, Switzerland; Men: Andre Agassi (2) vs. Mario Ancic, Croatia.

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