PARIS -- When male Americans finished 0-9 at the 2007 French Open, it loosed a trickle of explanations.
Some blamed the country's lack of clay courts.
Some blamed the country's lack of patience and nuance.
Some blamed the country's general cushiness and aversion to the kind of painstaking toil the Roland Garros clay demands, although for once nobody blamed the pervasiveness of air conditioning.
Now that male Americans have started with some visible spine at this year's French Open, it has loosed a stream of explanations.
James Blake extolled the glories of low expectations.
Sam Querrey said he plays clay by pretty much forgetting he's on clay.
Wayne Odesnik actually said he prefers clay to all else.
"Now maybe it's just like playing with house money this year," said Blake, risking humor.
"I don't really even know how to slide, so I just don't do that, but it doesn't make a huge difference," said Querrey of Thousand Oaks, risking sacrilege.
"Yeah, if they had more clay-court tournaments in the U.S., I'd play more of the year on it," said Odesnik, risking deportation.
Blake beat Rainer Schuettler in three sets before most of the slow-arriving French could get up from the lunch tables and find their seats on Day 1, Sunday afternoon.
Querrey lost on Monday, but it was to No. 1 Roger Federer, a condition epidemic upon the earth, and Querrey, only 20, looked quite competent in the process.
And then Odesnik pulled off a bellwether moment for his country, stopping one of the bright lights of the red-clay nation Argentina, Guillermo Canas, who was briefly Federer's nemesis last year and who has made it to the quarterfinals here three times.
Odesnik, ranked No. 106, did this to Canas, No. 31, in the kind of dirty gruel -- three tiebreaker sets that oozed across almost four hours.
"Definitely didn't want to go four or five sets against that guy," Odesnik said of Canas. "In my mind, he's probably the fittest guy I've ever played. After the match someone said, 'Oh, it was almost four hours.' I didn't even know I was out there that long."
Apparently a key American hope might hinge upon importing other countries' children when they're 3, as happened when Odesnik's family moved from South Africa to South Florida.
Another might have to do with hiring Spanish coaches, as Odesnik has done lately with Felix Mantilla, who already has taught the left-hander how to mine the peculiar advantages of being left-handed.
It also helps to look at a draw and begin "trying not to put him on a pedestal in my mind."
Said the 6-foot-6 Querrey, "I think other Americans just mentally tell themselves they're not going to do too well on clay."
Querrey's showing didn't surpass his first-round exit of 2007 or match his third-round reach at the 2008 Australian Open, but the look of it did justify his ranking of 40 and did indicate his wretched luck in drawing Federer, and it did trade in promise.
"He's an up-and-coming player who's got a good serve and big shots," Federer said. "Not going to win the French Open right away, but on the day you don't know what's going to happen."
Querrey's serve did elicit some gasps from French fans, even on the clay that tried to bite it, but he refused to see the inconvenience.
"I feel like my serve goes through the court and I can set up my forehand," he said. "I thought if I served a little better" -- 45% -- "it could've been a lot tighter," not that it was harsh at 6-4, 6-4, 6-3.
In search of greater strength, Querrey has traveled recently to Las Vegas, where he has worked with Gil Reyes, famous for training Andre Agassi.
From a junior just two years ago at the French, he has worked up to a Beijing Olympic spot, where he wouldn't mind a stellar roommate, "hoping for LeBron James," he said.
It all sounded so . . . upward.
The match "was pretty fun," Querrey said, adding that clay "keeps the game kind of new," and surely fun helps too, even when the opponent, well . . .
"I'm still in awe of him," Querrey said, referring to Federer. He added that he tries to forget it is Federer on the other side, "but it's difficult," he said.
Pretty soon on the grounds Monday, rain butted in. But, an upcoming match between American Donald Young and American Robby Ginepri probably will yield an American winner, so that's three wins at least for the U.S. men.
Three wins, and No. 7-seeded Blake into the second round against qualifier Ernests Gulbis.
"I tried to be a clay-courter, and I'm not," Blake said.
So . . . "So I need to play my game and adjust a little bit, be a little bit more patient, learn to play defense a little bit better, maybe work in the drop shot a little bit more, but not completely change my game."
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A look at Day 2 of the French Open and a look ahead to today's competition (world rankings in parentheses):
Venus Williams (7) -- In a tennis-geezer bowl pitting a 27-year-old against a 35-year-old, relative youth weathered Israel's 93rd-ranked Tzipora Obziler, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2.