Paris:Andy Roddick sets his sights lower at the French Open.
He's accustomed to going to other Grand Slam tournaments with plans to stay until the late stages. On the clay of Roland Garros, where play begins on Sunday, the No 3-seeded Roddick would be thrilled just to still be around for the fourth round.
"Different goals. Going into Wimbledon or the (US) Open, it's like, 'OK, I'm looking to make a run to a final here,'" Roddick said on Saturday.
"And here, I want to make the second week. Then, if you get there, you kind of re-evaluate," he continued. "But that's something I haven't done, and I feel like that's a realistic goal that I'm going after right now."
He's reached two finals at the US Open, winning the 2003 title. He's made two finals at Wimbledon, too. He's been a semifinalist twice at the Australian Open.
And at the French Open?
He's only once been as far as the third round, back in 2001. Since then, Roddick has two second-round losses and three first-round exits.
Red clay, clearly, presents particular problems, even if he's had some good results on it elsewhere, including in the Davis Cup and a title at St. Poelten, Austria, in 2003.
Balls bounce higher and move more slowly on clay, giving opponents added time to react to Roddick's best tools - his powerful serves and forehands.
"It's challenging," Roddick said, his backward-turned white baseball cap soaked with sweat and flecked with rust-colored spots after a practice session. "I want to get to the second week. I feel like, even though it is a challenging surface, it is something that I should have done."
Problem for Americans
Roddick's hardly the only American man who's had more trouble in Paris than at the other majors. No US man won the French Open between Tony Trabert in 1955 and Michael Chang in 1989, and Andre Agassi was the last to do it, in 1999.
Over the past three years, only one American man made it as far as the third round: James Blake last year.
"We don't play on (clay). That's just the bottom line," U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe said. "We don't play on it when we're kids. We don't grow up on it."
Roddick gets a chance for a little extra preparation before his opening match against 127th-ranked Igor Andreev of Russia, because they're not on Sunday's schedule. Two-time major champion Marat Safin, 2003 French Open winner Juan Carlos Ferrero and Australian Open runner-up Fernando Gonzalez are the top men slated to play, while No. 1 Justine Henin and Serena and Venus Williams highlight the Day 1 schedule.
While Roddick wants to strike the right balance between coming to the net and hanging back on clay, Andreev knows his way around the surface and has come up big at times. When Rafael Nadal's record 81-match winning streak on clay ended with a loss to Roger Federer last weekend, it was the Spaniard's first defeat on the surface since Andreev beat him in April 2005.
And at the 2004 French Open, Andreev upset defending champion Ferrero in the second round.
If Roddick can get past Andreev, things won't necessarily get easier. In the second round, he would face Luis Horna of Peru or Nicolas Massu of Chile, both comfortable on clay.
How hard is it for Roddick to figure out how aggressive to be?
"It's a very fine line," he said. "I'm not going to go out there and hit loopers all day and have any success whatsoever, because then it becomes a movement game - and on this stuff you know who's going to win that one."