|ESPN.com: Wimbledon 2007||[Print without images]|
Of course, an American had to win, because Andy Roddick was playing fellow countryman Justin Gimelstob. But, really, that's nitpicking. Roddick's 6-1, 7-5, 7-6 (3) victory ended an unsettling American streak of nearly five months without a major match win.
The French Open was a well-documented 0-for-9 disaster. Roddick was the last U.S. man to get on the board, beating fellow American Mardy Fish in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open in January.
Roddick, who is clever and self-deprecating to a fault in his news conferences, was understandably upbeat -- a 180-degree reversal from his dour post-French Open press conference after his first-round knockout at the hands of Igor Andreev. Roddick said that Gimelstob bet him that he would be the first tennis player in history to dive for a ball -- during the pre-match warm-up.
"I actually messed that one up because I was supposed to hit a ball away from him that he could dive to, and I missed three passing shots instead," Roddick said. "Unfortunately.
"He does not own that dubious distinction because of me."
There was plenty of dubious distinction to go around for the other American men who got their matches in on a showery day at the All England Club. Predictably, including Gimelstob, they went a combined 0-4.
Robby Ginepri, surprisingly, took the first set from No. 5 seed Fernando Gonzalez -- a quarterfinalist here in 2005 -- but lost the next three in swift fashion, 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2, 6-2.
Nineteen-year-old Californian Sam Querrey had a set point against Alejandro Falla, but lost his composure and that first set on the way to a 7-6 (5), 6-1, 6-4 loss. Querrey, whose big serve and forehand are prerequisites for success on grass, has now lost eight of his last nine ATP-level matches.
Zack Fleishman, the 27-year-old qualifier, lost his third Grand Slam match in four attempts, falling to No. 13 seed Tommy Haas in straight sets, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2.
|After eliminating a fellow American in the first round, Andy Roddick will play Thailand's Danai Udomchoke in the second round.|
The U.S. men, it must be noted, were victims of exceedingly bad luck when the draw was constructed. While Roddick and Blake were the only seeded U.S. men, seven of their unseeded compatriots faced seeded players.
Roddick, who is coming off his fourth title at Queen's Club in five years, displayed the kind of superior service game that wins matches on grass. He served 16 aces, got 74 percent of his first serves in and was not broken once.
"You give me the option to have that number for the tournament," Roddick said, "and I would take it right now. If you're taking care of your own serve, it puts more pressure on the other guy."
With the American men currently 1-4 in the first round, Blake is the obvious choice to join Roddick in the second round. He's the No. 9 seed and has beaten Andreev in all four of their matches. But those were all played on the hard courts. Andreev and his big forehand have the capacity to test Blake, who is only 4-4 for his career at Wimbledon.
Fish, who with a favorable draw might have won several matches here, is scheduled to face No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal on Tuesday.
Also scheduled to be in action: Vince Spadea versus No. 15 Ivan Ljubicic; Robert Kendrick faces No. 11 seed Tommy Robredo; Michael Russell plays No. 18 seed Jarkko Nieminen; and Amer Delic meets Lukas Dlouhy of the Czech Republic.
For Gimelstob, it might have been his Wimbledon farewell match. He is 30 years old and made his eighth tournament here because of his protected ranking of No. 73. Following last year's U.S. Open he underwent serious back surgery to remove disc fragments. After missing the first two months of the 2007 season, Gimelstob has lost all of his six matches.
He played doubles with Roddick's brother John back in the day and has known Andy since he was 9. Gimelstob is a character, an animated blogger who also plays to the crowd. Before the match, John Roddick set the over-under on dives at eight and, while official statistics do not include dives, according to Roddick "it was real close."
Of course, some inquiring minds might want to know why Gimelstob is throwing his delicate post-operative back to the ground on a whim.
Gimelstob did make history in one sense, however. He was officially the first player to ever invoke the Hawk-Eye replay system at Wimbledon.
"So," Roddick said, smiling, "he has the first miss with Hawk-Eye in Wimbledon history as well."
Greg Garber is a senior writer for ESPN.com.