Unknown American coming into the spotlight

6/2/2006 - Tennis


By Greg Garber, ESPN.com

PARIS -- Shenay Perry is not a household name back in America (not yet, anyway). Still, she already has done something here at Roland Garros that Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick and the rest of the U.S. men have failed to do over the last two-plus years:

She's into the third round of the French Open.

Perry, a 21-year-old from Coral Springs, Fla., defeated Akiko Morigami 6-3, 6-0 on Thursday and now heads into a match with No. 32 seed Gisela Dulko of Argentina. Perry beat another Japanese player, Shinobu Asagoe, in the first round, 6-3, 6-1.

These are remarkable results, considering the fact Perry is more comfortable on the faster hardcourts. What's more, she entered the tournament with a 4-9 record in Grand Slams and has somehow produced her two best scores in a major.

Perry's ranking is No. 90 on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour and regardless of her third-round outcome, the wins at Roland Garros should propel her closer to her all-time best ranking of No. 69 in 2004.

It is worth noting that all of the five remaining Americans in the draw as of late Thursday are minorities. Perry, Venus Williams, Jamea Jackson, James Blake are African-American and Kevin Kim, who is scheduled to play Rafael Nadal on Friday, is of Korean descent.


It will be a busy Day 6 on Friday as numerous matches have been pushed back due to inclement weather.

Rafael Nadal never had the opportunity to take the court Thursday as rain postponed the action.

He will take on Kevin Kim, one of just two Americans left in the draw. Last year, Nadal became the first player since Mats Wilander to win the French Open in his debut.

Nadal, who broke Guillermo Vilas' record of 53 straight clay-court wins in the opening round, is 18-0 on clay this season. It's been well over a year since he last lost on the dirt (April 2005 to Igor Andreev). The Spaniard had little trouble in his first match, a routine straight sets win vs. Robin Soderling.

For Kim, he is coming off his first career win at the French Open. However, the California native doesn't appear to pose a threat to Nadal, at least on paper. He has a career record of nearly 20 matches below .500 and has failed to win consecutive matches once this season.

James Blake is one step closer to going home. He lost the first set in a tiebreaker against unseeded but highly dangerous Nicolas Almagro before weather postponed the match. Blake never has advanced to the third round at Roland Garros.

He looked sharp in his first-round match winning in straight sets vs. Paradorn Srichaphan. However, the American has struggled since the clay-court season started. Having won two titles, both on hard courts earlier this season, Blake is just 3-4 on the dirt.

Three weeks ago, Almagro took Roger Federer deep into a third set in Rome before succumbing, 7-5.

Speaking of Federer, he continues his quest Friday for the only Grand Slam event that eludes him. For the first time in the tournament he will face a seed, No. 32 Nicolas Massu.

The Chilean Massu looks to get past the third round for the first time in his career at the French. However, that will be a monumental task going against the world's top player.

Federer has yet to drop a set through two matches. Although he has failed to win a clay-court tournament thus far, he has reached the finals in both events he has competed in.

The top two seeds are also in action for the women. Amelie Mauesmo looks to take a step further to conquering her home Grand Slam event. Mauresmo won three tournaments, but since early March, has failed to even make a final.

Kim Clijsters, the No. 2 seed, plays her second-round match vs. Conchita Martinez Granados. The Belgian, at least on paper, appears to have a smooth road to the quarterfinals before a possible matchup with Martina Hingis.

In what might be the most intriguing matchup of the day, Maria Sharapova and Australian Alicia Molik square off. Molik reached a career-high of No. 8 last year before her season was later marred by illness.

Sharapova entered the tournament questionable because of an ailing foot. However, after overcoming three match points in her first-round match, the Russian looked strong in the second round, knocking off Iveta Benesova 6-4, 6-1.