This time, Roddick survives first round

With new coach Jimmy Connors in his corner, he bounces back from last year's stunning early exit from the U.S. Open.

Published August 29, 2006

NEW YORK - Andy Roddick gave a fist pump toward coach Jimmy Connors and walked off the court with his arms and head held high. This time, he still has more tennis to play at the U.S. Open.

Roddick bounced back from last year's stunning first-round upset, overpowering Florent Serra 6-2, 6-1, 6-3 on Monday and drawing encouraging claps from Connors.

"It's a lot better than last year, a lot better start," the ninth-seeded Roddick said. "I'm really confident right now."

After a 90-minute rain delay, opening day at Flushing Meadows featured an attractive lineup, on and off the blue courts.

Andre Agassi, sure to be the crowd favorite in his final event, was to play Andrei Pavel on Monday night.

Second-seeded Justine Henin-Hardenne got off to a clean start, breezing past Maria Elena Camerin 6-2, 6-1. Mardy Fish won as well - and became the answer to a tennis trivia question.

With instant replay being used for the first time at a Grand Slam event, Fish made the first challenge. He contested a sideline call that went against him, but the ruling was upheld in his 6-4, 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 win over Simon Greul of Germany.

Asked how he felt to make history, Fish laughed and said he wasn't sure if he was first: "I didn't know if Justine did or not."

Former champions Henin-Hardenne (2003), Roddick (2003), Svetlana Kuznetsova (2004) and Lindsay Davenport (1998) all won their openers, and Agassi (1994 and 1999) hoped to do the same.

In the Open's first big upset, Feliciano Lopez of Spain ousted No. 3 Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia 6-3, 6-3, 6-3. Ljubicic beat Lopez at the Australian Open and Wimbledon this year.

Roddick never was threatened, a complete reversal from his straight-sets loss to unheralded Gilles Muller of Luxembourg in the opening round last August. Another difference this time: Connors is in his corner.

Connors might have seen a bit of himself, too: Roddick showed a lot of emotion early in the match, pumping his fist after breaking serve for the first time.

"His passion for the game, and for the process, is huge, and it's contagious," Roddick said of his new coach.

Henin-Hardenne won the French Open in June for her fifth major title, and the Belgian star was satisfied with her early win.

"It wasn't my best tennis, for sure," she said. "I'm happy I played big enough today."

Agassi arrived for his record 21st straight U.S. Open.

At 36, he's unseeded at the Open for the first time since 1997 and has a bad back.

"To be here, the inspiration of it - I'm hoping to get out there and feel awesome," he said.

The U.S. Tennis Association approached Agassi's team about the possibility of a tribute during the Open, but the idea was scrapped.

"We're going to respect the wishes of Andre Agassi and respect the fact that he wants to approach this tournament as he does any other one," USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier said.

Agassi, an eight-time major champion, was the U.S. Open runner-up four times, including last year against Roger Federer.