Force with "elder statesman" Roddick

By Alastair Himmer

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - A blur of constant motion, Andy Roddick fired a reminder that he remains a force to be reckoned with by thumping Czech Jan Hajek 6-1 6-2 6-2 in the first round of the Australian Open on Monday.

The American, who briefly held the men's number one ranking after winning the 2003 U.S. Open, looked sharp in his Melbourne opener, mixing up his game intelligently in an easy win.

"I feel healthy and strong for the first time in a while," eighth seed Roddick told reporters after coming through in an hour and 41 minutes.

"I played five matches in Brisbane which is all you can pretty much ask for. I certainly feel like I'm prepared," added Roddick, whose 2010 season was disrupted by a mild case of mononucleosis.

"The conditions were a little dead today. It wasn't hitting and jumping like it normally would here. We don't get many days below 70 Fahrenheit here."

Roddick's battering ram serve produced 18 aces but he frequently frustrated his 96th-ranked opponent with his deep, sliced backhand approach in a performance of real maturity.

UNPLAYABLE SERVES

Roddick, barely pausing between points and shuffling along the baseline as if on fast forward, suffered his only blip while serving for the match at 5-2.

But the 28-year-old calmly fended off two break points before powering over the finish line behind another fistful of unplayable serves.

"I've put myself in a position where I'm ranked eight so to be pissed off about any draw that I created for myself in a quarter-final is not smart. It's a little presumptuous."

Roddick said he was happy to be the go-to guy for the next generation of American players.

"I feel like I've been the elder statesman ever since Andre (Agassi) retired," he said. "That's coming up on five years. I'm the guy that a lot of the guys come to.

"It's a role I've always been happy in. I'll give them whatever opinions I have on pretty much anything."

(Reporting by Alastair Himmer; Editing by Ossian Shine)