On one of those explosive, drama-filled nights that only the U.S. Open can produce, Andy Roddick was ousted in a second-round thriller by the bearded, bespectacled and quite brilliant Serb, Janko Tipsarevic, 3-6, 7-5, 6-3, 7-6 (4).
Article continues below ...
The drama erupted when Roddick was trailing 2-5 in the in the third set. A female line judge — not the one who caught a volley of abuse from Serena Williams last year — called Roddick for a foot fault and then seemed to suggest it was the player’s right foot that had caught the line when questioned.
“That’s impossible,” yelled Roddick.
He was right about that, but the line judge had been correct about what mattered. Andy had foot faulted — but with his left foot.
The incident set off a tirade from the American who complained to the umpire, to his coach Larry Stefanki and, of course, to the unfortunate official sitting implacably on the line.
“She kept insisting it was my right foot,” explained Roddick. “I was stupefied. But, yes, I did let it go on too long.”
It was all about the nerves and frustration of the moment, and Roddick had plenty to be nervous about because he had lost to Tipsarevic at Wimbledon in 2008 and knew that the Serb — who, incredibly has never won an ATP title during a 10-year career on the tour — was well capable of moments of brilliance.
In the end he produced far too many of them for a gallant opponent who kept fighting, kept throwing his best punches only to find himself constantly on the ropes. An incredible backhand, dug out low and off balance which flew past Roddick for an angled pass, was just one of the amazing shots Tipsarevic offered for a spellbound crowd of 23,000. And there were many more winners — 66 in all — backed up by 16 aces.
“I served huge,” Tipsarevic said afterwards. “In the first set I was making wrong decisions and going for shots from the wrong places on the court, but then I started to play better.”
The professorial look is justified. Tipsarevic reads Nietzsche and Dostoevsky, speaks near flawless English and is well capable of putting his brain to work on court. He chose the right moments to attack and kept on coming up with the goods.
“I was waiting for him to crack, but he didn’t,” Roddick said. "I thought I hit the ball pretty well. He played very high risk and executed for four sets. I kept telling myself, you know, this has to have an expiration date on it but it didn’t. I was just trying to make him keep coming up with it. From all ends of the court, just firing, pulling the trigger down the line, flat, time after time — that is not an easy thing to do and he was able to do it. Kudos to him. He played great.”
Roddick felt he executed his own game plan pretty much as he would have wanted and was checking the match stats as he came into the press conference.
“I just wanted to see it to see if I was crazy or not,” said Roddick, maintaining his sense of humor. “Sixty-six winners versus 30 errors for him. That’s pretty good. I just wanted to validate it in my own mind.”
Rising American star gets big win
Was it the heat or Ryan Harrison that knocked No. 15 seed Ivan Ljubicic out of the U.S. Open? A bit of both probably, but the net result was that America’s best teenager grabbed the win of his young life and goes into his second-round match against the talente, but beatable Ukranian, Sergiy Stakhovsky, brim full of confidence.
If Harrison was the story of the day for American fans, the heat was the topic on everyone’s lips. The hard courts at Flushing Meadows are the worst in these conditions because, unlike clay or grass, they reflect the heat and throw it back up at the player.
“The concrete, it’s just brutal,” said Ljubicic. “I mean, you get heat not only from the sky but also from the bottom.”
Ljubicic, a well respected figure on the tour who has done duty on the ATP Board of Directors, will wave away inevitable complaints from manufacturers about their courts not being made of concrete as a technological misspeak. But the point remains. Temperatures on these courts are always much higher than elsewhere and today’s were clocked at around 109 degrees F.
Brutal is certainly a term that fits and makes one wonder why the USTA does not put a cap on what temperatures they will allow before calling for a break. Heat rules have been introduced in Australia and matches are now called when a complicated ruling that combines temperature and humidity hits a certain figure. But, of course, at Melbourne Park they have the luxury of turning the two main courts into air conditioned arenas by closing the roofs.
Ljubicic does not buy into the widely accepted notion that it is the same for everyone.
“No, I mean, we saw some players struggling big time and comments like ‘it’s the same for everybody’ are really not (true)," he said. "Somebody is struggling more than others and I think it’s just not fun. People are coming to see good tennis and days like this are all about everything but tennis. It’s just trying to hang in there and hit some balls.”
Ljubicic admitted that Harrison was on top of his game.
“We played at Indian Wells (where Ljubicic won the tournament in March) and the court was much slower and it was easier for me to handle him from the baseline. Today was very quick court and then he definitely played more solid today. He’s 18-year-old kid. He is definitely going to play better and better every day.”
American tennis fervently hopes that is true. Harrison is totally dedicated to making it as a world class player and has been ever since his father started coaching him as a child in Louisiana. Admitting this was the biggest win of his career, he added, “I’ve always believed in myself. I always had confidence that I could do this so obviously I’m very excited and pleased with what happened.”
Harrison credits Roddick with always being there for him with advice and when he was asked how he felt about being the next big American star, he replied, “Absolutely I want to be that guy. I have a ways to go but I’m definitely working as hard as I can.”
Despite the fact that Ljubicic, a heavily built 31-year-old, was obviously not moving well in the heat, Harrison had heat of his own to throw at the Croat who could not break the stinging Harrison serve until the penultimate game of the match, after which the teenager broke straight back to close out a highly commendable 6-3, 6-7, 6-3, 6-4 victory.
Querrey, Murray win; Berdych out
Another inexperienced American — the 20-year-old Stanford University student Bradley Klahn — did not disgrace himself against his pal Sam Querrey, the 20th seed here and a man considered by some to have an outside chance of winning the whole thing.
But it will have to get cooler for the big Californian to survive. After closing out a 6-3, 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 win, Sam admitted, “It was so hot out there I was struggling. My legs were cramping and his were, too. Fortunately, his were just a little worse than mine.”
The pair had practiced together most of the summer and Querrey admitted Klahn was one of the last people he wanted to play because they are such good friends.
“I think he was a little nervous at the beginning,” said Querrey. ‘That’s normal. I was a little nervous, too. But he played well. He’s got a good lefty serve, big forehand. I was impressed with how he played.”
Andy Murray, benefitting from all that training in Miami, came through on Arthur Ashe, where the wind was swirling, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 against Slovakia’s Lukas Lacko. But a major obstacle was removed from Murray’s quarter of the draw when Tomas Berdych, the Wimbledon finalist who was seeded No. 7 here, was rushed to defeat by that frenetic Frenchman Michael Llodra 7-6, 6-4, 6-4.
Llodra controlled the match with his big lefty serve and went to work on the Czech’s heavy delivery by chipping and charging at every opportunity. Berdych was simply not nimble enough to deal with it.