Americans gone bad
WIMBLEDON, England -- Andy Roddick suffered one of the worst moments of his career at Wimbledon last year, upset by Richard Gasquet in the quarterfinals after blowing a two-set lead. At least he got that far.
There was more misery at the All England Club on Thursday, as Roddick, buoyed by victories over the head of the men's class earlier this season, exited in the second round to unpredictable Serbian Janko Tipsarevic 6-7 (5), 7-5, 6-4, 7-6 (4).
Coupled with James Blake's defeat to slumping German Rainer Schuettler and Jesse Levine's loss to Austrian veteran Jurgen Melzer earlier in the day, both in five sets, it left -- guess now -- Bobby Reynolds as the last American man in the singles.
And he's up against big-serving lefty Feliciano Lopez, a quarterfinalist three years ago, on Friday.
If he's sent packing, no U.S. men will be in the last 16 at Wimbledon for the second time in three years, although having a solitary male in the third round is already the U.S.'s worst showing at Wimbledon in the Open era.
Ian Walton/Getty Images
Andy Roddick was exasperated at times during his second-round loss to Janko Tipsarevic.
It was Roddick's earliest departure on the hallowed lawns in eight tries.
"Any chance I got I pretty much just choked it,'' said Roddick, seeded sixth and a two-time finalist. "So you know, that's tough to deal with, and that's not something that you really want to do. It's twice in a row here that I've completely blanked.''
The result emphasized what a topsy-turvy campaign it's been for Roddick.
Wins over world No. 1 Roger Federer, No. 2 Rafael Nadal and No. 3 Novak Djokovic were tempered by a third-round loss to German Philipp Kohlschreiber at January's Australian Open and skipping last month's French Open because of a bum shoulder. (Roddick didn't blame the shoulder or lack of prep time for the loss.)
Given he's chosen not to play the Olympics, Roddick's last real shot at glory comes at the U.S. Open, the site of his lone Grand Slam title five years ago.
"I think he'll look at his season as a C as of right now,'' ESPN analyst Luke Jensen said. "He's got a passing grade because of the wins here and there, but the bottom line is that he'll be defined by the majors. He's got to lift his C grade, and he's got one good shot to make it an A.''
There weren't many good shots against Tipsarevic, by Roddick's own admission.
He failed to take any of his eight break chances, including three on set points in the final set. At 5-4 for Roddick in the fourth and up 40-30, he sent a meek forehand push return into the middle of the net from a short, tame second serve.
Tipsarevic went 2-for-2 on break points.
"The guy hit average serves in the middle of the box at about 90 mph,'' said Roddick. "There's no excuse. You know, if I consider myself a top player or whatever, you make those. You make those in your sleep. I not only didn't make them, there was nothing even positive in the misses.''
Roddick too often was content to trade ground strokes with Tipsarevic, and the Serb, carrying the hopes of a nation on his shoulders -- in the men's draw, that is -- now that Djokovic is gone, found success 22 of the 27 times he foraged to the net. Roddick was 18-for-31. Tipsarevic saved the final Roddick set point of the fourth, at 5-6, by serving and volleying, the only time either used that tactic.
Tipsarevic continues to battle the top guys tough. He rallied from a match point down to beat explosive Chilean Fernando Gonzalez at Wimbledon a year ago and stretched Federer to a 10-8 fifth set at January's Australian Open.
If only he could be more consistent.
"I just looked at the stats, and it's really simple,'' said Tipsarevic, ranked 40th. "Today I used my chances, and he didn't.''
Blake, a loser in the second round at the French, still hasn't got past the third at Wimbledon in six tries, a surprise since his hard-hitting game is more suited to faster surfaces and he reached the final of the Artois Championships, the premier men's grass-court tune-up, two years ago.
Schuettler, at 32 seemingly nearing the end of his career, entered Wimbledon with a 4-13 top-tier record in 2008 and hasn't been inside the top 75 in the rankings since May 2006. A former world No. 5, he's currently 94th.
Blake blew a two sets-to-one advantage and went 3-for-13 on break points. He was broken to end the match.
So much for the anticipated Blake-Roddick fourth-round showdown.
Five things we learned on Thursday
1. Nadal knows sarcasm: Over the past week, Rafael Nadal has been asked incessantly about Spain's chances in soccer's European Championships. Perennial underachievers, the Spanish found themselves in the semis against Russia on Thursday, eventually winning 3-0.
Nadal toppled budding Latvian star Ernests Gulbis in four sets, the match starting at 1 p.m. local time, six-and-a-half hours before the soccer semifinal.
Here's Nadal's take when asked if he thought he'd miss the game.
"If I'm going to miss the [soccer?]'' Nadal asked. "If I play the longest match in the history, yes.''
Nadal's uncle, by the way, is former Spanish international defender Miguel Angel Nadal, dubbed the Beast of Barcelona.
The German trio, all over 30, pulled off impressive wins, one way or another, in the second round. Haas, more patched up than the Bionic Man, took out 23rd-seeded and grass-averse Tommy Robredo in straight sets; Kiefer steamrolled clay-court specialist Martin Vassallo Arguello 6-0, 6-3, 6-1 in an hour and a half; and Schuettler rallied from two sets down to knock off ninth-seeded American James Blake.
Schuettler, the former world No. 5 now ranked 94th, the lowest of the three, probably has the best chance in the next round. He'll meet Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, while Haas and Kiefer get British hope Andy Murray and Nadal, respectively.
3. There is depth in women's tennis: More than a few women's matches in the opening rounds involving seeds have been tight: Nathalie Dechy notably squandering two match points in a 10-8 third-set loss to world No. 1 Ana Ivanovic yesterday and Russian Alla Kudryavtseva going one better today by eliminating one of the tournament favorites, Maria Sharapova, in straight sets.
Kudryavtseva had fun with a male reporter who brought up the issue of depth in her postmatch news conference.
"It's guys,'' she said. "They always say, 'The women's game is predictable.' They always say, 'You women can't serve, you don't go to the net, you can't slice.' No, we can do it all. We're strong. Don't listen to them.''
Just so you know, Kudryavtseva came to the net only eight times.
4. That Murray serve is looking good: Murray's serve has been the subject of much attention. With potentially one of the biggest deliveries around, Murray, heading into this week, was outside the top 55 in first-serve percentage (57 percent) and outside the top 25 in aces.
In a 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 rout over injury-hit Belgian Xavier Malisse Thursday, though, he notched a first-serve percentage of 67, clubbed 16 aces and claimed more than 80 percent of points behind the first serve.
"It's getting there,'' the 12th seed, projected to meet an improving Richard Gasquet in the fourth round, said. "Hopefully the next couple of years it will get a bit stronger, you know, get the strength in my shoulder to maintain it over five sets so that I can keep it going the whole way through tournaments.''
5. Venus is the forgiving type: Venus Williams doesn't hold grudges -- or so she says.
At 1-1 in the second set of her ultimately comfortable win over Anne Keothavong, Williams was clubbed in the face by the British No. 1 with a shot when they were at the net. The defending champion looked miffed and failed to spot Keothavong's apology, though appeared untroubled afterward.
"It hurt,'' Williams said. "This is tennis. You have to be ready for whatever. I've hit some people, too. I don't think she was aiming at me. And if she was, she didn't tell me about it. I don't think she was aiming for me.''
Williams gets another foe outside the top 90 in the third round in Spaniard Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez.
Ravi Ubha is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.
The high road
"I'm going to take the high road," she told reporters on a conference call Thursday when asked about Gimelstob's lack of impulse control in a stunningly vulgar Washington, D.C. radio interview last week, in which he used several profanities to describe her.
Kournikova, 27, and Gimelstob, 31, are both set to play on World Team Tennis squads this summer -- Kournikova with the St. Louis Aces and Gimelstob with the Washington Kastles -- and Gimelstob said he intended to talk enough trash to make Kournikova cry on court. Other lowlights included Gimelstob's threat to "plug" a serve down Kournikova's throat, and a suggestion that his younger brother should have sex with Kournikova. He also made prurient observations about several current players on tour, including Nicole Vaidisova and Alize Cornet, whom he termed "sexpots" -- another dubious verbal detour, since Gimelstob provides match analysis for Tennis Channel.
The Russian said she had "no clue" why Gimelstob would attack her, and added, "I'm sorry about this, but I don't want to get into any off-court stuff. WTT is not about those sorts of things, it's about keeping it fun and positive playing for the fans. So I really don't want to get into any of those discussions. I really am not paying attention to that, and I don't want to give it any more significance than it has already received."
World Team Tennis suspended Gimelstob for one match without pay, and his apology is posted on the league's Web site. "I hope my heartfelt remorse can begin to heal any wounds I have caused," wrote Gimelstob, who also made a donation to the Women's Sports Foundation. WTT founder Billie Jean King said she had spoken to Gimelstob and hoped all concerned could "move beyond" the incident. Tennis Channel also posted a statement that said the network had "reprimanded" Gimelstob.
Kournikova, a longtime Miami resident, spends much of her time these days raising money for the Boys and Girls Club.
The Aces play the Kastles in Washington on July 23.
-- Bonnie D. Ford
Down and out
After Lindsay Davenport withdrew from the tournament before her second-round match with Gisela Dulko on Thursday with an injured right knee, she conceded that it might well be her last appearance at the All England Club, where she won the title in 1999.
And yet, Davenport didn't seem overly distraught.
"It didn't go into my mind today like, 'Oh, this is my last chance to play here,'" she said. "You know, I haven't analyzed it to that point yet.
"Coming back, it was a huge goal of mine after giving birth, and obviously having some extra weight and to see what I could do and challenge myself after having Jagger. It's been worth every step of the way."
Davenport was playing her first tournament in nearly two months and knew coming in that the condition of her knee might not allow her to last long. After beating Renata Voracova in the first round, Davenport rushed to the hospital for an MRI. To her relief, there was no structural damage to the knee that underwent surgery in 2002, but there was inflammation and fluid behind the kneecap.
"After warming up, I felt like I was about 25, maybe 30 percent," Davenport said. "In a first-, second-round match, it's just not good enough. It's not going to get better the more I play on it."
So Davenport will head home to Laguna Beach, Calif., and concentrate on rest and rehabilitation. The doctors say she should be good to go in several weeks. Then her focus will be reduced to two tournaments: the Beijing Olympics and the U.S. Open.
And then? It sounds as if Davenport -- who has withdrawn from tournaments this year with a back injury, a viral infection and this balky knee -- is going to quietly step away from the game.
"There's certainly days where you feel like it's not something you want to do, like any person in their job feels," she said. "There's other days where it's like, 'Oh, my gosh. I can't wait for the U.S. Open in eight weeks.'"
Since her comeback last year, Davenport has described her status as "semi part-time." Why doesn't she use the "R" word, as in retirement?
"Because if I say that word, you [media] guys jump all over it," she said, smiling. "So now I just pretend like I'm going to play through the London Olympics, and then I have no stress."
-- Greg Garber
ESPN.com prediction: Ferrer in five sets.
-- Bonnie D. Ford