By Larry Fine
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Andy Roddick celebrated his 28th birthday by romping past France's Stephane Robert 6-3 6-2 6-2 in his first-round match at the U.S. Open on Monday.
Ninth-seeded Roddick, the 2003 U.S. Open winner, made an emphatic start on a hot, sunny day despite struggling with an energy-sapping illness this season.
The top-ranked American finished the 102-minute match in familiar fashion, when his sizzling serve on his first match point was returned long by the 30-year-old French journeyman, playing for the first time on Arthur Ashe center court.
"I was happy." Roddick told the Arthur Ashe center court crowd about his form and brisk victory. "Conditions are a little tricky out there. The wind blows a little out there."
Roddick served just eight aces, but registered 19 other service winners to ease the way to victory against the light-serving Robert, who had 69 of his 75 serves returned.
The American said he was trying to recapture the form that made him one of the hottest hardcourt players in the world back in March, when he won in Miami after beating Rafa Nadal in the semi-finals and Czech Tomas Berdych in the final, and reached the final at Indian Wells.
"It's just a matter of being solid and serving a high first-serve percentage," said Roddick, who pounded in 68 percent of his opening salvos on Monday. "I was playing a lot of clean tennis (then). I have to tighten it up a little bit."
(Reporting by Larry Fine, Editing by Frank Pingue)