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Roddick survives, will face upstart next
Under the lights on Arthur Ashe Stadium, Andy Roddick and Michael Russell, the bulldog and the terrier, went at it for three hours, offering great entertainment for the appreciative crowd. Despite Russell snapping at his heels, Roddick came through to win the first-round match, 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 — and it was hardly surprising that he looked mightily relieved to have put this one to bed.
If only the 5-foot-8 Russell had a little more power he might be able to win some of these matches because there is nothing wrong with his stroke play nor his willingness to scamper about, chasing down even the most impossible balls. Sadly for this Houston-based player, this was Russell's seventh first round defeat in seven attempts at the US Open — scant reward for the amount of effort he puts into his tennis.
But at 33, he has no intention of giving up. He enjoys it too much.
"I hope to be back, fit enough to play here again at 34," he smiled. "It was just a great experience, playing at night on Ashe for the first time with the crowd getting into it after I won the third set. If I hadn't been fighting my serve early on I might have had a better shot, but I had two double faults which sort of gifted him the first service break."
Russell knows Roddick's game as well as anyone, having spent hours on the practice court with him over the past 10 years, and he feels Roddick is still playing well enough to go deep into the tournament.
"Maybe he missed some more shots than he usually does. But at the same time, I wasn't missing a lot of shots, either. If he serves well, he could go deep. The guy serves at 130 mph. If he's serving at a high percentage, it's tough to get back, no matter who you are."
Roddick felt he was able to play as well as he did after missing most of the US Open Series with a torn stomach muscle because he stayed behind in Winston-Salem, where he had been playing in the new ATP event, and practiced over the weekend instead of sitting in his hotel room in New York watching the rain come down. However, Roddick is under no illusions about needing to improve his game.
"I got through, but I'm certainly not fooling myself by thinking that was worthy of a championship performance by any means," he said.
Roddick will be looking at a very different player in his next match, but whatever the outcome, it will be a win-win for American tennis — in fact, the state of Nebraska can't lose, either, because, like Roddick, Jack Sock — the 18-year-old who has won the past two junior titles here — is Nebraskan-born. Sock battled his way past the big-hitting French veteran Marc Gicquel 6-4, 6-3, 1-6, 6-4 for his first US Open victory and now finds himself facing someone he has looked up to throughout his childhood.
Roddick watched Sock's match against Gicquel.
"It's fun to watch the kids," he smiled. "From what I've seen, he's pretty pumped up. It's all there ahead of him. He's excited. He has nothing to lose and everything to gain at this point. And I was joking with someone today about the Nebraska thing. I said I think we're the only two teenagers to have played tennis in Nebraska for the past 30 years and we're both in the US Open. Maybe we're missing something. Maybe we need the corn-fed boys."