Andy Roddick extends career
NEW YORK -- Knowing full well each match could be his last, Andy Roddick is putting on a show while soaking up every moment along the way.
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So when he pounded a forehand passing shot to seize a 20-stroke point Sunday, Roddick thrust both arms overhead, motioning to the full house of U.S. Open spectators to make even more noise. Moments later, after hitting a winning volley, Roddick wagged his right index finger while chugging back to the baseline.
Channeling his inner Jimmy Connors, Roddick is having a grand ol' time at his retirement party -- and he's not done yet.
Winning a second consecutive match since announcing the U.S. Open will be the last tournament of his career, 2003 champion Roddick stuck around at least a little longer by getting past 59th-ranked Fabio Fognini of Italy 7-5, 7-6 (1), 4-6, 6-4 in the third round Sunday.
"I'd be an idiot not to use the crowd right now. It's a huge advantage," Roddick said. "Each match is almost like it's another memory."
What comes next could really be memorable. In the fourth round Tuesday, the last American man to win a Grand Slam title will face 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro, who defeated Leonardo Mayer 6-3, 7-5, 7-6 (9) in an all-Argentine match that featured one particularly noteworthy point. In the tiebreaker, Mayer smacked a backhand that somehow ricocheted off the top of a net post and landed in the court -- but del Potro was unfazed, got the ball back and wound up winning the point.
"I'm going to have to serve well, kind of try to rush him a little bit," Roddick said about del Potro. "When he gets into a groove and has time, he'll put a hurt on the ball."
Looking ahead himself, del Potro wasn't about to get too sentimental about Roddick's impending departure from tennis.
"I know this is special, this day, for him, but I'm doing my job," said the seventh-seeded del Potro, whose major trophy is the only of the past 30 that wasn't won by Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic.
"The crowd loves Andy here," del Potro said, "and they have respect (for) me."
Djokovic, the defending champion, beat No. 31 Julien Benneteau in straight sets and will meet No. 18 Stanislas Wawrinka for a quarterfinal berth. Also advancing: No. 4 David Ferrer, who got past two-time major champion Lleyton Hewitt 7-6 (9), 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 and now meets No. 13 Richard Gasquet, who eliminated two-time NCAA champion Steve Johnson 7-6 (4), 6-2, 6-3; and No. 19 Philipp Kohlschreiber, who set up a fourth-round encounter against No. 8 Janko Tipsarevic by beating No. 9 John Isner 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in a match that ended at 2:26 a.m. Monday, tying the tournament record for latest finish.
Sunday just so happened to be five-time U.S. Open champion Connors' 60th birthday -- and on the very same date in 1991, Connors celebrated his 39th by coming back to beat Aaron Krickstein in five sets to reach the quarterfinals in New York, a match replayed often during rain delays in more recent times. Connors, who later briefly coached Roddick, was at his rabble-rousing, crowd-goading best on that day 21 years ago; in one of those nice twists, Roddick was in New York then, a kid who was treated to tickets as a present to celebrate his ninth birthday.
"That was my first taste of live tennis, and it was that run," Roddick recalled, "so that's as good as it gets."
He and Fognini provided their own brand of entertainment, even though Roddick is not at his best because of an aching right shoulder. A couple of months ago, Roddick lowered the tension in his racket strings so he could, he explained while pointing to that shoulder, "get a little sling action in it and help the old Hamburger Helper here."
Asked how that key part of his body feels, Roddick said: "It's not great. But, you know, it's good enough. I've got, max, a week of tennis left, so it's good enough for that."
Part of Roddick's appeal, in addition to an ability to play tennis well enough to reach five Grand Slam finals and get to No. 1 in the ATP rankings, is his showmanship and quickness with a quip.
Dealing with a series of injuries, Roddick dropped out of the top 20 in February, then slid to No. 34 in March, his lowest ranking since 2001. A balky right hamstring forced Roddick to retire during his second-round match at the Australian Open in January, and he lost in the first round at the French Open and third round at Wimbledon.
The 20th-seeded Roddick certainly won't be favored against del Potro. But Roddick is into the fourth round for the ninth time in 13 appearances in the U.S. Open, and he's 8-0 so far.
"He benefits from playing at home," said Fognini, who hugged his good pal up at the net after losing and asked for one of Roddick's shirts as a memento.
"If I really force myself to pick a winner, I'd give del Potro a 51 percent chance, because he is playing well and he's confident," Fognini said. "But on the other hand, Roddick wants to end his career on a high note."
Fognini is a real character, too, and he conjured up one tremendous, full-sprint, back-to-the-net, between-the-legs shot; after Roddick replied with a lunging volley winner into the open court to end the point, Fognini chucked his racket all the way to the service box.
"That's about as cleanly as you can hit a between-the-legs passing shot. He hit the thing from Jersey and almost won the point," Roddick said. "That was fun."
There was more, including when Fognini stuck his mug right up against a TV camera after one point; requested instant-replay challenges of two faults on another (both serves were, indeed, out); and kept up a stream of sailor-language muttering in Italian.
Roddick appeared sluggish at times, and his big serve -- he once owned the record for fastest, at 155 mph -- wasn't always what it can be. Fognini, who at 5-foot-10 is four inches shorter than Roddick, actually wound up with more aces, 15 to 10.
"I was surprised; he's one of the best servers in the world," Fognini said.
The key came in the second-set tiebreaker, when Fognini took the first point, and Roddick the rest.
At 1-all, Roddick really came alive, as did the partisan group in the stands, when he smacked a winner and gestured vigorously.
"I played that point perfectly. It was so pretty, it should have been framed," Fognini said with a smile, "and he ruined it with a down-the-line passing shot that was crazy."
Roddick followed that with a pair of aces at 126 mph and 131 mph and pretty much was on his way.
There was the third-set blip, of course, but otherwise Roddick stayed steady, breaking Fognini twice in a row in the fourth and raising his clenched right fist overhead after going up 4-3.
After Fognini missed a backhand return on match point, Roddick rolled his head back and raised both arms overhead, then swatted a ball into the stands.
Roddick answered the fans' standing ovation with one of his own, clapping overhead while standing near the middle of the court. When he sat in his changeover chair, Roddick exhaled a couple of times, taking it all in.
"You're kind of smiling, humming, whistling, walking around, and you feel pretty good about it. All of a sudden, you have to say good bye to someone. It's like this gut-check moment. It's these extreme emotions from five minutes to the next five minutes," Roddick said, describing the past few days. "You think you know what's going on, but I don't think there's any way to prepare yourself for it."
Serving as the warm-up act for Roddick in Arthur Ashe Stadium, Djokovic completed his second straight match without facing a break point to advance to the fourth round for the sixth straight year. Djokovic needed only 1 hour, 37 minutes to clear out of the stadium.
The No. 2 seed from Serbia faced a break point in the opening game of the tournament, against Paolo Lorenzi. Djokovic lost that point and hasn't faced one since.
"Obviously, the serve is something I've wanted to improve the last 15 months or so," Djokovic said. "I wanted to get more free points on the first serve. Today, it was working very well."
Djokovic finished with 13 aces with a top service speed of 128 mph. He said he's not so used to early wake-up calls at the season's last major, where he has made the final the last two years and is more used to playing in prime time. To make sure he wouldn't be late for the third-round match, he shaved the night before and had a bit of stubble jutting from his chin by the early afternoon.
"I'm not always the morning person, to be honest," Djokovic said. "You try to go to bed early and try to wake up early and get your body moving obviously. I wanted to start very sharp from the first point, and I've done that."
Djokovic's entire match took only 23 minutes longer than the first set between Ferrer and Hewitt in Armstrong Stadium. Ferrer saved five set points in the first-set tiebreaker to advance to the fourth round for the 10th straight Grand Slam tournament.
After saving his fifth set point, Ferrer won the point of the match, scrambling from side to side at the net to pick up back-to-back volleys by Hewitt, then angling off a backhand winner to set up his second set point, which he won.
Hewitt broke early in the second set and got even in the match. But the 31-year-old, little more than three months removed from an operation to reconstruct the big toe on his left foot, wore down in the muggy, 79-degree heat and was limping between points at the end.
"I'm not saying I was going to win, but if I'd won the first set, it would have made life easier," Hewitt said.
Tying the record for latest finish at the U.S. Open, Kohlschreiber eliminated marathon man Isner at 2:26 a.m. Monday. The official completion time was the same as a second-round match in 1993, when Mats Wilander beat Mikael Pernfors.
"Of course, it's very late, so everybody here is really a crazy tennis fan," the 19th-seeded Kohlschreiber told the few fans who remained during an on-court interview.
He won his sixth consecutive five-setter. Isner, the highest-seeded American man, dropped his fourth in a row -- and did it in angry fashion, getting docked a point for smashing a racket. It caps a disappointing Grand Slam season for Isner, who didn't make it past the third round at any of the four major tournaments.
An earlier three-set victory by Maria Sharapova in Arthur Ashe Stadium was interrupted by a rain delay, and Isner and Kohlschreiber didn't start until after 11 p.m. Sunday. They played 3 hours, 20 minutes.
That length pales in comparison to Isner's record 11:05 victory at Wimbledon in 2010 and his 5:41 loss at the French Open this year.
Against Kohlschreiber, the 6-foot-9 Isner hit 22 aces, but he lost all three break points he faced. He only was able to break the German twice in 11 chances.
After the fourth set against Kohlschreiber ended at about 1:30 a.m., a sweat-soaked Isner headed to the locker room for a full wardrobe change, even switching shoes.
That added a delay of about eight minutes. When Isner came back, his mood quickly soured.
In the first game of the fifth set, he got upset over a miscommunication when chair umpire Carlos Bernardes charged him for an instant-replay challenge that Isner said he didn't really want. After pushing a forehand long on the next point, Isner whacked a ball in anger into the stands, drawing a warning for unsporstsmanlike conduct.
Later in that game, a foot-fault call by a line judge that Isner disagreed with erased an ace and led to a double-fault. And after missing a forehand, Isner got broken to trail 1-0.
Two games later, now down 2-1, Isner re-aired his anger at that call, saying to Bernardes: "Who is this guy? How is he going to call a foot-fault? Worst call ever."
With that, Isner sat down in his changeover chair and pounded his racket to the court twice, busting up the frame then chucking it away. Because of the earlier warning, Bernardes charged Isner with a point penalty, so Kohlschreiber started the next game ahead 15-love. Nonetheless, Isner wound up getting a break point at 30-40, but Kohlschreiber erased that with a backhand winner down the line.
Isner got another break chance while down 4-3, but he sent a groundstroke long, and Kohlschreiber wound up holding to lead 5-3. Two games later, the match was over.
Asked what the key for him will be moving forward, Kohlschreiber replied: "Recover as soon as possible."
In men's doubles, brothers Christian and Ryan Harrison of the U.S., making their Grand Slam debut together, advanced to the quarterfinals as wild cards. Christian, 18, and Ryan, 20, beat 14th-seeded Brits Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins 6-3, 6-4.
American teen Sloane Stephens, who lost in the third round to Ana Ivanovic in singles Saturday night, pulled out of her mixed doubles match with Rajeev Ram because of a left abdominal strain. The top-seeded team of Liezel Huber and Max Mirnyi advanced with the walkover.
Andrea Hlavackova, who faces Serena Williams in Monday's fourth round and injured her right hip flexor Saturday, played her women's doubles match Sunday but pulled out of mixed doubles. Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka, the 2011 French Open champs, won their match in straight sets.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
U.S. Open 2012 -- Aug. 27-Sept. 9
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