Roddick, Agassi, Henman Cruise in Openers at Rome

Posted on May 3, 2005

Andy Roddick, looking to make his mark on the European red clay; Tim Henman, working up to the monumental task of defending his semifinal points at Roland Garros; and Andre Agassi, playing singles against Father Time, all advanced with comfortable wins Monday on the opening day of play at the ATP Masters Series-Rome.

The top-seeded Roddick continued his dominance of Greg Rusedski, eventually overcoming a flow of flailing unforced errors to subdue the net-charging Brit 6-4, 6-2 to set up a highly-anticipated meeting with unseeded and former Roland Garros champ Al Costa.

"I've beaten some good players on clay before, so I know I can play well on it," Roddick said. "It's just a matter of getting into the comfort zone. The first matches are always very uncomfortable and it's more difficult for me to get into that zone than it is on other surfaces."

Henman, seeded No. 4, found less resistance than expected from unseeded and former Roland Garros champ Gustavo Kuerten, who is still feeling the effects of coming off a second hip surgery.

"In Kuerten I know I've knocked out a very good player," Henman said. "I think last year was a big breakthrough for me psychologically. I know I have to use my style (on the clay). I have to keep moving forward, using my volleys."

The No. 6-seeded Agassi found himself in a tight contest early on against local wildcard Alessio Di Mauro before taming his nerves and the Italian 7-5, 6-2. The win advances the American to a meeting with the hot-handed Frenchman Richard Gasquet.

"He's a very talented player and, like so many of the French, has such a nice backhand. It's great to watch him come through," said Agassi of Gasquet. "The match he played against Roger (Federer in Monte Carlo) was of a very high level and he's obviously playing well."

The other seeded winner Monday was (16) Thomas Johansson (d. F.Lopez), with two seeds upset in (10) Joachim Johansson (l. to (WC) Seppi) and (14) Nikolay Davydenko (l. to Verdasco).

Unseeded winners into the second round were Frenchmen Sebastien Grosjean (d. Carlsen) and the qualifier Gasquet (d. Srichaphan, bagel in the first), Spaniards Dave Ferrer (d. Saulnier), qualifier Nicolas Almagro (d. Andreev from a set down) and Costa (d. countryman Montanes), Argentine qualifier Juan Monaco (d. Soderling), Romanian qualifier Victor Hanescu (d. Melzer in three), Slovak Dominik Hrbaty (d. Mello), and Swiss qualifier Stanislas Wawrinka (d. Berdych).

On tap for Tuesday in Rome is (9) Guillermo "El Mago" Coria vs. Fernando "Gonzo" Gonzalez, Novak vs. (2) Safin, (5) Nadal vs. Youzhny, (7) Moya vs. (WC) "You Say" Potito Starace, Kiefer vs. Haas in an all-German, Fabrice "The Original Wizard" Santoro vs. (8) Nalbandian, Beck vs. (3) Gaudio, Volandri vs. El Aynaoui, Max "The Beast" Mirnyi vs. (WC) Sanguinetti, Llodra vs. Juan Ignacio "The Spitting Snake" Chela, Florian "Oscar" Mayer vs. Luis "Me So" Horna, (12) Ljubicic vs. Olivier "The Roach" Rochus, (LL) A.Martin vs. Rainer "Shine" Schuettler, (Q) Julien "United Colors of" Benneteau vs. (13) Robredo, (15) Stepanek vs. Mario "Baby Goran" Ancic, Pavel vs. (11) Canas, and Massu vs. (Q) Mathieu.