Kendrick is only U.S. male to deliver

The endangered species of Paris include snails and American males, and three of the latter spent a hot Sunday simultaneously trying to breathe above the toilsome clay.

When the last kicked-up dust of three contentious matches had settled on the first day of the 2009 French Open, one Yank somehow had gasped into a next round, not so bad for a comfort-seeking country with a prompt-gratification gene and a noted 0-9 male record at the 2007 French Open.

The South African-turned-Floridian Wayne Odesnik and the Thousand Oaksian-turned-Santa Monican Sam Querrey couldn’t quite make it, but the Fresno-raised Floridian Robert Kendrick did, edging Germany’s 130th-ranked Daniel Brands in a 6-7 (7), 7-5, 7-6 (11), 4-6, 6-3 melee on the Court 7 outskirts.

“I don’t think I would have pulled out that match four years ago,” the seasoned Kendrick said, noting there would have been cramping born of nervousness.


Yet at the sage age of 29, he’d tried this really amazing approach to this French Open in which he played three weeks of European clay-court events beforehand, after which Kendrick concluded, “You’re used to seeing the same balls.”

He’s used also to hearing the same clay-based slights of American men, enough to say, “I kind of hate it.” And if Querrey and Odesnik also fancy clay in a way that seems almost reactionary by now, they couldn’t quite express it given their draws.

Querrey, ranked admirably at 56th, got the 41st-ranked Ernests Gulbis, the Latvian whose huge game brims with top-10 promise if not patience, and whose 7-1 triumph in the first-set tiebreaker forged the confidence that forged the searing zingers of his four-set win.

“Dangerous,” the 21-year-old Querrey said of the 20-year-old Gulbis after a Wimbledon-style match with short rallies and Querrey’s marvel that, “Late in the fourth set, serving at 1-4, he broke me with four winners on the forehand.”


Whereupon he lamented he couldn’t soak up more Roland Garros experience.

Meanwhile, the 87th-ranked Odesnik, the only one of the nine American males who began with a winning Roland Garros record -- 2-1! -- did wage five sets on the main Court Philippe Chatrier with the world’s No. 7 player, Gilles Simon, the emaciated Frenchman with pipe-cleaner legs and emphatic shots powered by seemingly every one of his cells.

The 6-3 loss in the fifth set left Odesnik stung, even while he certainly looked worthy after four sets when applying an ice pack to his neck while simultaneously ingesting an energy bar.

He said encouraging things such as, “I like playing the clay,” and also, “I had just one bad service game that cost me the match.”


He also repeated an old refrain even before six more American males -- including No. 6 Andy Roddick and No. 15 James Blake -- even got going: “Maybe it’s just we don’t have that many clay courts in the States or that many tournaments. . . . Doesn’t seem the USTA is really trying to improve that in my opinion.”