Roddick winding his way through a tricky draw

Updated: August 31, 2008

Spinning forward

Julie Coin won't soon forget the first week of the U.S. Open. The unknown from France pulled off one of the biggest upsets in history by knocking off a subpar world No. 1, at least for now: Ana Ivanovic.

No such drama on the men's side, where behemoth Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, now the chaser, didn't drop a set. Here are a few things to keep an eye on in Week 2, besides a possible duel between the big two.

American men: The last time an American man reached the semifinals of a Grand Slam, Federer was still playing like, well, Federer. Andy Roddick was the fella, and Federer pummeled him at the 2007 Australian Open in a match that was supposed to be tight, since the Nebraska native dispatched the Swiss at an exhibition a week earlier.

Roddick still figures to be the top U.S. threat. Abolishing a tricky draw, which included gunslinging Latvian Ernests Gulbis in the second round, the newly turned 26-year-old is on his way to the quarterfinals if he can overcome the many weapons of Chilean Fernando Gonzalez. So far, so good under temporary coach Patrick McEnroe, he of the many hats.

Mardy Fish downed good pal James Blake in front of a raucous J-Block crowd Saturday night and is a victory away from making his second Grand Slam quarterfinal. Fish, who like Roddick is armed with a big serve, says he's more content after becoming engaged to Stacey Gardner -- the two are due to be married in late September. (Why wouldn't he be? Gardner is a model with brains.)

Up next for Fish is the unpredictable, excitable, colorful ... Gael Monfils.

Sam Querrey, 20, reached the fourth round of a major for the first time. He should enjoy it. Some guy named Nadal follows.

Williams vs. Williams: Let's face it: With the women's draw in disarray -- two of the top three seeds, including Ivanovic, exited in the first week, and drawing card Maria Sharapova wasn't at Flushing Meadows altogether -- the expected quarterfinal battle of the Williams sisters is the real finale.

If it wasn't for Nadal's memorable win over Federer in the Wimbledon men's final in July, Venus' triumph over Serena in the women's championship a day earlier would garner a little more appreciation. Unlike most of their other meetings, it was high-quality stuff, as Venus rallied from a first-set hole to prevail and claim a fifth crown. Serena was none too pleased, casting aside notions that their head-to-heads had preplanned outcomes.

Both have since dealt with knee injuries, perhaps the reason for quarterfinal singles losses at the Olympics.

Serena has more riding on the second week. The most in-form player on the circuit in the spring, the younger of the siblings has essentially nothing to show for it. She last won the U.S. Open in 2002, not even advancing to the semis thereafter. A year earlier was Venus' last U.S. Open title, also her last Grand Slam title of any kind away from the All England Club.

Double J: A drama queen Jelena Jankovic is, but that's why she's so compelling.

Always dealing with some kind of injury (a calf strain was her latest ailment), the bubbly Serb was accused of gamesmanship in a second-round struggle with Swede Sofia Arvidsson. Jankovic uncorked a serve as Arvidsson asked her to wait and almost took a nap on court, lying on the pavement for 30 seconds, face down, after chasing a drop shot.

In her third-round win (7-5, 7-5 over dogged Chinese baseliner Zheng Jie), Jankovic fought through 11 deuces in the final game. The world No. 2 was then forced to rally from a set down against Danish teen Caroline Wozniacki, who's destined for the top 10, on Sunday.

Jankovic has a smooth path to the semis, where Olympic gold medalist Elena Dementieva will probably be waiting.

For all her charisma, Jankovic has yet to reach a Grand Slam final, getting closest when she blew a set and break lead to Justine Henin in the Open semifinals two years ago.

"I'm trying to do my best to bring my game to the next level," Jankovic said. "We'll see how everything goes. The most important thing is I believe in myself, and I really want to do it."

Al Bello/Getty Images

It hasn't been a seamless ride, but Andy Murray has made his way into the fourth round of the U.S. Open.

Popeye: No, Robin Williams isn't strolling the grounds. The next best thing, Andy Murray, is.

Murray, once scrawny and prone to faltering physically, can't stop flexing his ever-growing biceps. He did it upon completing a rally from two sets down against Richard Gasquet in the fourth round at Wimbledon, then again when he came back Saturday against Austrian lefty Jurgen Melzer.

Spinach or no spinach in tow, the gesture, Murray claims, is meant to show his team all the hard fitness work is paying off. Skeptics argue it's aimed at detractors who still question his stamina.

Whatever the reason, the ultra-talented Scot, ranked sixth and rising fast, could be flexing his muscle a little more.

Murray, behind Nadal and sizzling Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro, enjoyed the most productive summer among the men. He won his first Masters title in Cincinnati in August and has beaten every player in the top five except Nadal, a possible semifinal foe.

Murray is single-handedly trying to become the U.K.'s first Grand Slam men's singles winner since Fred Perry in the 1930s, now that Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski are long retired.

"That's my goal for the tournament, to try to win it," he said. "I don't think that if you set yourself a target of third round and you reach it, you can kind of feel like you've achieved what you came here to do."

The men's pups in the top half: At 26, Mardy Fish must feel like a dinosaur. He's by far the oldest player remaining in the top section of the draw, trimmed to eight. Nadal, Murray, Querrey and Monfils are among six 22 or under.

Juan Martin Del Potro is also in the posse.

The imposing Argentine, three weeks shy of his 20th birthday, has won 22 consecutive matches and four straight tournaments. Some achievement, yet one that might have been overlooked by a few given his last two titles, in Los Angeles and Washington, came during the Olympics.

Del Potro, who prefers playing on hard courts, continued his magic Saturday when he downed French wall Gilles Simon in five sets.

"I feel happy because I win, but I cannot move anymore," Del Potro said.

His artillery includes a big serve and explosive forehand, though his two-handed backhand is steadier.

Del Potro's next challenge comes from Japan's speedster Kei Nishikori, the youngest of the bunch at 18. Nishikori, tipped for the top five by none other than Nadal in June, won his own five-set tussle Saturday against the slumping fourth seed, David Ferrer.

Monfils, one of the most athletic players prowling the circuit, is on a roll, too. He reached the quarterfinals at the Olympics under the no-nonsense Roger Rasheed, his latest coach.

Ravi Ubha is a frequent contributor to

Record match

It was not an artistic or aesthetic success, but Sunday's fourth-round match between Sybille Bammer and Marion Bartoli made history.

The match began at 1:57 p.m. ET and when Bammer had prevailed 7-6 (7), 0-6, 6-4, the clock read 5:02. It added up to a 3-hour, 5-minute marathon -- the longest women's match in the long history of the U.S. Open, and the second-longest, period.

The first set alone ran 80 minutes -- only 16 minutes shorter than Federer's entire third-round victory over Radek Stepanek.

The previous record was 3:03, set in 2003, when Justine Henin-Hardenne defeated Jennifer Capriati in the semifinals 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (4) on her way to the title.

On paper, it might seem odd that a match with a 6-0 set took so long, but Bartoli was terribly ill. The 2007 Wimbledon finalist (she lost to Venus Williams) vomited twice on court. And doctors who attended to her during the match found her blood pressure abnormally low.

"The only thing I've eaten or drunk in the last 24 hours is orange juice," Bartoli said later. "I tried with everything I had and gave my maximum. It's a miracle I lasted three hours with nothing in my stomach."

Bartoli repeatedly took extra time between points, particularly on her serve. Believe it or not, Bartoli won 99 points in the match, four more than Bammer.

The longest women's match on record? In the 1984 Virginia Slims tournament in Richmond, Va., Vicki Nelson Dunbar outlasted Jean Hepner 6-4, 7-6 (11) in a match that consumed an amazing 6 hours, 31 minutes. The tiebreaker -- this was the era of the moon ball -- alone took 1 hour, 47 minutes.

-- Greg Garber



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Muscle man


When Mardy Fish's shirt flies up in the heat of a match these days, something relatively new is revealed: ab muscles.

Most recently, Fish cruised to a straight-sets victory over close pal James Blake in his first-ever night match at the U.S. Open. The win propelled Fish into the fourth round, two notches further than he'd ever been before at this tournament. On court afterward, Fish thanked fitness coach Rory Cordial for getting him to that new frontier.

"He's been invaluable as far as my success this year,'' said Fish, who's having his best season since 2004, when he reached a career-high No. 17 and won a silver medal in Olympic singles. His 2008 highlights include a decisive win over then-No. 1 Roger Federer in the Indian Wells semifinals, and appearances in the finals there and in New Haven, Conn.

"I've played quite a few matches in the past two weeks: long matches, short matches, three-setters, four-setters, whatever, and I just feel better and better as the tournament goes on,'' said No. 35 Fish, who will play France's dynamic 32nd seed, Gael Monfils, on Monday. "That's just a credit to all the hard work he's put in. He came on not knowing much about tennis at all but knowing the body extremely well and knowing how to train people extremely well.''

Fish is among an ever-increasing number of ATP players who have traveling fitness coaches, including No. 8 Andy Roddick, whose trainer Doug Spreen is never far from his side.

"It's certainly a privilege to have it,'' Roddick said. "You have somebody who knows, maybe has direct knowledge of your injuries as opposed to going in and trying to explain it every other week. You know, so I think that kind of relationship is extremely beneficial nowadays, maybe more so than ever, just because it's tougher. I think it's more of a grind and the game's becoming more physical.''

The 27-year-old Cordial, a native of Missoula, Mont., was a college quarterback who played for Oregon State and Idaho. The physical therapist helps prepare college players for the NFL combine and works with athletes from other sports as well.

With such a short offseason, tennis players who want to stay fit have to force themselves to take full advantage of their few idle weeks and diligently keep up strength and agility work during tournaments, Cordial said.

He calls the philosophy "pre-hab'' -- shorthand for preventing the kinds of injuries that have often sidelined Fish in the past. He doesn't have Fish hitting dummies or jumping through tires, but he does have him doing agility drills and weightlifting, even in the thick of events.

"I don't think that before, he continued to hit the gym during tournaments,'' Cordial said. "Now he's excited, he can't wait to get in there.''

Cordial also rides herd on Fish's diet, concentrating on the best fuel for recovery and the timing of what to eat when. Most importantly, according to Fish, he has instilled a tough-guy attitude in the easygoing Fish, who has been perceived as a player who wasn't always as disciplined as he could have been.

"You'll never know if the guy is sick or not,'' Fish said. "He's that kind of person. Doesn't complain at all, and he's brought that to me. I have been known as a complainer every now and then. I'll let you know when I don't feel well. He's brought that type of football-type mentality to me.''

Those abs are one result. "He's worked hard for them,'' Cordial said.

-- Bonnie D. Ford

Upward spiral


Monday's round of 16 match between Russia's sixth-seeded Dinara Safina and Germany's Anna-Lena Groenefeld, a former top-20 player now ranked No. 141, may look lopsided, but it brings together two players with great forward momentum.

"I never knew for sure if I'm going to get back to where I was,'' Groenefeld said after becoming the first qualifier to make it to the fourth round of the U.S. Open since Anna Kournikova in 1996. "It's very satisfying to see it's coming back so quickly.''

But while Safina is simply living up to her long-predicted promise, Groenefeld has come back from a difficult, traumatic period that began right here in New York two years ago.

Groenefeld soared to No. 14 in the world in 2006, her fourth season as a pro, and reached the French Open quarterfinals that same spring. But when she lost to 96th-ranked Aravane Rezai in the first round of the U.S. Open, her coach, Rafael Font de Mora, severed their relationship and triggered a downward spiral.

The following season, Groenefeld publicly accused Font de Mora of giving her opponents tips on how to beat her. He denied that, and countered by saying she had gained too much weight to compete at the top. In the meantime, Groenefeld lost her longtime doubles partner, American Meghann Shaughnessy, another Font de Mora protégée and his sometime girlfriend. More significantly, Groenefeld completely lost her confidence and decided to take a break.

The 23-year-old played only one match between August 2007 and May of this year. Since then, she's won 36 of 40 matches and four clay-court titles on the lower-level International Tennis Federation circuit. After emerging from qualifying rounds here, she routed 11th seed Daniela Hantuchova 6-4, 6-2 in the opener and took out another seeded player, No. 17 Alize Cornet of France, in the third round.

Groenefeld said she had to restore balance to her life. "I think I'm much more relaxed now, not so tied up, running around like a robot,'' she said after winning a late-night doubles match with partner Patty Schnyder.

On-court stability has been restored by German coach Dirk Dier, a former pro and assistant Fed Cup coach. "She wasn't ready to compete'' when they began talking, he said. "We had to talk a lot about normal [everyday] life.''

Simple things like permitting herself a shopping trip or visiting family and friends had become foreign to Groenefeld, Dier said. "She was always staring straight ahead, always focused. Everything had to be in order.''

He said there's no reason she can't return to her former level -- including fitness-wise. "Step by step,'' Dier said. "It has to come from the inside.''

-- Bonnie D. Ford

Critics' choice


Kei Nishikori vs. Juan Martin Del Potro: We give you the complete Del Potro English interview transcript after his third-round victory over Gilles Simon:

Q: How are you feeling?

A: Tired.

Q: Anything more than that?

A: No. I feel happy because I win, but I cannot move anymore.

Three sentences -- that's it. Case closed. prediction: Nishikori in four.

-- Greg Garber