Roddick passes first test at Aussie Open

Published Jan. 18, 2010 6:59 p.m. EST

Melbourne has the sort of climate that can lure you out into brilliant sunshine only to spit rain at you while working on your tan. There must have been a rainbow somewhere on this confusing day and Andy Roddick eventually found his after being interrupted on his way to a 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Dutchman Thiemo de Bakker on the Hisense Arena.

Despite plenty of early rain, the roof had been left open on Melbourne Parks’ second court — as opposed to Rod Laver Arena which had been closed from the start — and officials appeared to be caught unaware by the advancing showers. So there was a hiatus at 2-2 in the second set but that was never going to impede Roddick’s progress any more than the 17 aces produced by his worthy but outclassed opponent.

The win enabled Roddick to add to “the constant procession of little goals” that he had set for himself leading up to the ATP event in Brisbane he won a week ago. Asked about his progress following the knee injury which sidelined him at the end of last year, Roddick replied, “At first I got to be able to walk; then I got to be able to run; then I got to be able to move from side to side. When I started in Brisbane I was about ready to start as far as health. Obviously I always want to be on court and spectating at the ATP World Finals in London — I think I was there for two days — wasn’t that easy, especially when I felt like I had earned my spot.”

But that was last year. Now Roddick is starting fresh and his immediate goal is to get past the semifinal road block here in Melbourne. Four times in seven years the American has made it to the last four but never further. The only road block Andy ran into today was an apparently immobile line judge.

“I ran into one of those immovable objects called a referee,” Roddick said. “He wasn’t giving up any ground. I didn’t see him. He wasn’t really trying to do too much to get out of the way. I felt he was trying out for WWE or something.”

Happily, the collision did nothing more than slightly jar Roddick’s knee. “You know, it’s a good sign that I can kind of take that. It didn’t do too much to me.”

Kevin Anderson, a giant South African with an appropriately big serve, couldn’t do too much to Andy Murray when they finally were allowed on the Rod Laver Arena court after Maria Kirilenko had taken 3:22 to beat Maria Sharapova — a marathon that was followed by Kim Clijsters quicker victory over the Canadian qualifier Valerie Tetreault.

Murray is seeded fifth here having dropped briefly to No 5 on the ATP ranking because he chose to play the Hopman Cup in Perth, where there are no ranking points, rather than defend his title in Qatar. That allowed Juan Martin del Potro to overtake the Scot but with del Potro also dropping points a week later, Murray has now returned to No 4. Whether that quirk in the ranking system will turn out to be detrimental to Murray’s chances remains to be seen because it means he will have to face Rafael Nadal at the quarterfinal stage if they both get that far.

When Anderson defeated a stunned Novak Djokovic at the Sony Ericsson in Miami two years ago, many people thought that South Africa had found a new star. But Anderson sank without a trace back into the challenger world and there was little in his performance here to suggest that he can really make his mark at the top. Murray, moving at great speed and pulling off some spectacular winners, outplayed him at every turn.

“I got off to a good start, breaking him immediately and that helped,” said Murray, who felt that conditions under the roof here were not too dissimilar to those at Wimbledon when the new roof is closed. Murray, of course, is one of the very few players to have experienced those conditions at Wimbledon where, predictably, the first year with the roof produced hardly any rain.

“It gets quite humid, quite heavy,” he said. “But with conditions getting windy outside, there was an advantage to playing indoors.”

In the first but, presumably, not the last men’s marathon of the championships, the 6-10 Croat Ivo Karlovic outlasted unpredictable Czech Radek Stepanek 2-6, 7-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 in a battle that lasted 3:56. Chile’s Fernando Gonzalez made shorter work of the little Belgian OIivier Rochus, winning 6-1 in the fourth.


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