NEW YORK (AP) After a five-year absence from the U.S. Open - which included a yearlong ban from the tour - American Wayne Odesnik couldn't get past his higher-ranked opponent or the same old questions.
Odesnik's 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 first-round loss to 10th-seeded Kai Nishikori on Tuesday was followed by a news conference in which he deflected queries about the ban and its aftereffects. Odesnik was off the tour from April 2010 to August 2011 after pleading guilty in an Australian court to importing HGH into that country in early 2010. He denied using HGH and has repeatedly said he has never tested positive.
The International Tennis Federation, which originally banned Odesnik for two years, later cut that penalty in half, saying he cooperated with investigators. That led to speculation on the tour that Odesnik was ratting out his fellow players, which caused some to openly shun him.
"I'm putting my energy on things that are in my control and what can help my future, not that stuff," said the 168th-ranked Odesnik, who earned a wild card entry into Flushing Meadows based on wins in the U.S. Tennis Association's minor-league Pro Circuit events.
On a packed Court 17, a sunken, smaller stadium court, Odesnik got a generally warm response from the fans, with some frequently yelling out "Come on, Wayne!" as he battled in long baseline rallies with the Japanese star.
Asked about the relationship he has with fellow players today, he said it was good and that he had no problems. When asked again about his drug suspension, he said he was done talking about it.
"In my mind, it's all in my past," he said. "I'm trying to move forward and trying to do the best that I can here on out."
It took more than two hours for Nishikori to finally dispatch Odesnik, who struggled to get his first serve in and was seemingly always on the defensive.
The 28-year-old Odesnik, who is based in Florida, has failed to qualify at Flushing Meadows in the past three years, though he did qualify for this year's Australian Open and Wimbledon, losing in the first round in each. He said his plan now is to enter more Challenger events and build his ranking back to the point that he doesn't need to qualify or get a wild card to gain entry into Grand Slam tournaments.
Odesnik said he saw Flushing Meadows as just another step in his comeback.
"It's the U.S. Open. It doesn't get much bigger than this, playing on a big court, having the opportunity to have my family and friends there. Trying to enjoy it as best that I can," Odesnik said. "I have a lot of playing ahead of me."