- Jane McManus, Reporter & Columnist, espnW.com
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NEW YORK -- It wasn't just the rain, or the water bubbling up by virtue of some meteorological phenomenon on Louis Armstrong court. No, the fourth-round men's singles match between Andy Roddick and No. 5 David Ferrer was surreal from the fit pitched by Roddick, to the mysterious screaming in the second set, and included some guy who tried to climb the back fence of Court 13 as Ferrer was set to serve.
The challenges of two straight days of rain continued for No. 21 Roddick and John Isner, but both Americans prevailed through their fourth-round matches. No. 28 Isner managed to win all three tiebreakers in a 7-6 (2), 3-6, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (4) win over No. 12 Gilles Simon. Roddick eventually upset Ferrer in the shadows well behind Arthur Ashe Stadium, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
The Spaniard conceded that the court and the upheaval had nothing to do with the outcome.
"I think he won because he was better than me," Ferrer said. "And if we play in another court, for Roddick, he won the same match."
Roddick joked that if he'd known he'd end up on Court 13 -- where he played two juniors matches in the 1990s -- he might have considered retirement. But instead the tiny venue with its 584 seats was a last resort given the relentless rain that washed out two days of play. The match started on Louis Armstrong on Wednesday, and was suspended due to rain as Roddick was up 3-1.
On Thursday morning, the match continued for two games until play was stopped because of water seeping up through the Armstrong court as the sun started to shine.
"I looked down at one point and I saw like kind of like a little crack, and it had probably seven or eight nickel-sized waterdrops on it," Roddick said. "But it looked too perfectly placed; it almost looked like someone almost poured a little bit of water out. So I dried it off, played the next game, went back to play the point, and saw it was there again. That's when I realized that we had a problem."
The USTA sent vacuums, towels and tournament referee Brian Earley to try to remedy the wetness, but when players returned to Armstrong, Roddick and Ferrer looked at the puddles and then each other.
"Can you believe this?" Roddick said to Ferrer.
Roddick lobbied Earley to immediately move the match to the open court, Court 13. Ferrer agreed; they had to play and the other show courts were occupied. And with Roddick up 4-2 in the fourth, off they went to Court 13.
"Well, it was not nice playing on Court 13, but it was nice when you are junior, no?" Ferrer said.
When tennis fan Evangelos Kragouras in Armstrong heard the match was moving, he and his friend sprinted to 13 and had prime seats behind the chair umpire, where they cheered for Ferrer. Those fans without speed and foresight stood on bleachers at farther courts, leaned over the back of Court 11 or waited outside to try to get in.
What those inside got to witness was Roddick using his dominating serve to get out of trouble time and again. Without Hawk-Eye technology to verify calls, the line judges and chair umpire Carlos Bernades were the last word. Bernades had his hands full, kicking photographers and media off the court when they came in and sat down after Ferrer complained. Bernades also had responsibility for sending someone to check on the intermittent shrieks coming from the courtyard.
"It was actually kind of shrill," Roddick said. "It was a little stressful."
After losing the third set, Roddick was broken to go down 2-3 in the fourth. But his strong serve coupled with a strong net game allowed him to break back and serve out for the win. He shook hands, threw a shirt and his racket into the stands and high-fived the front row all the way around.
Blanche Roddick, who leaned over to kiss her son after the match, was glad that her son showed resolve in not playing on an unsafe court. "I just wanted the scheduling to stay fair," she said.
Isner moves on to play No. 4 Andy Murray at noon Friday. That match will be followed by Roddick versus No. 2 Rafael Nadal. Isner, a big server who had a few points on Court 17 go pretty long, said that he was tired during his match.
"It was very hot and humid," Isner said. "I went through 10 shirts. I ran out of shirts. I had to go get somebody to go get me some more shirts."
He sent a friend to the Nike store to buy more shirts. Isner could also need them against Murray, who beat him at the 2010 Australian Open. Isner has matured a lot since then, and feels pretty confident that he can go deep if he plays well. The additional time between matches now that the men's final has been moved to Monday at 4 could be beneficial as well.
But like every other player, Isner has to hope the weather stays dry. Three days of rest after his fourth-round win isn't going to help Isner against Murray.
"I was ready to go," Isner said. "All of a sudden the rain comes, and literally you just sit in the locker room all day."