The Federer-Roddick rivalry is no longer a myth. It truly exists and was on full display this evening at the Sony Ericsson Open as Roger Federer and Andy Roddick battled for a spot in the fourth round. Gone are the days of these two players meeting each other in Grand Slam finals, but the electrifying atmosphere still livened up the stadium as Roddick prevailed over Federer, 7-6(4), 1-6, 6-4 in what was a match for the history books.
“This is why you play,” stated Roddick during his on-court interview, encapsulating the exact thoughts of all those witnessing the American’s breakthrough. During his resurgence tonight, it was easy to forget that Roddick had a 2-21 losing record to the Swiss. However, this evening we witnessed a vintage Roddick who came out of the woodwork to stun and amaze both the audience and Federer.
The first set saw Roddick take surprising command as he eventually won in a tiebreak, 7-6(4). Roddick’s serve was on point, winning 83% of first serves while Federer struggled with his backhand returns often sending them long.
At the start of the second set, the crowd was surprisingly pro-Federer – if only to extend the match to three sets, but it seemed to negatively influence Roddick. He tightened up as his backhand began to leave him, and his serve faltered on several key points. He instigated the backhand slice instead, and Federer pounced on him any opportunity he got. Federer quickly broke him twice to go up 5-1, with Roddick serving to stay in the set. A perfect setup by Federer to push Roddick into “no man’s land,” gave the Swiss the open deuce court to strike a winner and take the second set, 6-1.
In his post-match press conference, Roddick was cheerful and talkative, admitting that he “didn’t feel like I played terrible [in the second set]. I mean, I didn’t play that bad … You know when he gets that lead he’s like a runaway freight train. That’s not really what you want to see.”
As any Roddick fan knows, momentum changes with the American are common and the third set started off rocky. Roddick bullied himself more than his opponent and barely held his opening service game. Deflated and grunting at himself, Roddick became a mere silhouette of the player he was at the start of the match. With this, the crowd shifted allegiance and turned pro-Roddick creating a near instantaneous transformation in Roddick’s game plan, with him sliding, attacking and pegging the ball deep into the court, breaking Federer for the first time of the evening to go up, 2-1.
“It was kind of a game of chess,” Roddick said. “I stayed back on the returns [initially], which is something I have not done with him often early on. I think he might have been a little bit surprised by it.
He made the adjustment like he does because he’s Roger. [He] started coming in a lot and putting the pressure on me, and it was down 6‑1 in the second and Love‑40 early in the third. It was apparent that that wasn’t going to work much longer.
So I said, ‘Well, all right. Let’s kinda go over‑the‑top aggressive.’ I was able to get out of that game and play that really good game to break, and then my serve held up from there.”
Reenergized and with a bit of luck on his side, Roddick’s forehands began painting the lines for winners. Federer meanwhile, now clearly frustrated, altered his approach and channeled his energy to take the next game at love.
Two aces to go up 4-2 in the third gave Roddick the slight cushion he needed. As Federer attempted to stay inside the baseline taking balls on the early rise, Roddick hit deep into the back court to force his opponent into errors. Both players were on fire as the deciding set progressed, and the final games of the match would be a highlight for any tennis fan to witness live.
Three service winners in a row on the deuce side and a final ace gave Roddick a boost to go up 5-3. With Federer now serving, Roddick began running down every ball but wasn’t able to capitalize and break. Whether you were a Federer or Roddick fan, there was not a person in the stadium without adrenaline rushing through their veins. 5-4 Roddick. An ace followed by two service winners gave Roddick the match and the stadium erupted into cheers.
As Roddick shook hands with Federer and sat down at his bench, he was bent over seemingly overcome with emotion. Afterall, this was only the third time in eleven years that he had beaten Federer and it was a moment to savor.
Federer spoke with the media, praising Roddick and what he has done for American tennis, lest fans forget.
“He’s still very good. I hope you guys give him more credit than he’s getting at the moment. I’m happy to see him play really well. He’s a great champion, and enjoy him while you have him. It was a great night for him and America’s tennis.”
Given a match of this caliber and the player Roddick showed the world tonight, it’s safe to say all those retirement rumors can be put to rest – at least for a while.
“There is no script in sports,” commented Roddick. “I think that’s what makes it the best entertainment in the world… You don’t know what’s gonna happen. Nights like tonight are why you play the matches…
It would be a little presumptuous to go from people retiring me, to all of a sudden talking about winning a Masters event. You know, let’s take it for what it’s worth. It probably wasn’t as bad as it seemed two weeks ago, and it’s probably not all the way turned around because of one match.”
Ryan Harrison nearly forced a third set against Roger Federer today at the Sony Ericsson Open, but the Swiss prevailed 6-2, 7-6(3) in just under one-and-a-half hours on court. In his post-match press conference, Harrison talked about his expectation to win every match, why he doesn’t set ranking or tournament performance goals, and Federer’s renewed authority on court.
In the match, Federer easily broke Harrison during the second and eighth game of the first set, and after Federer was up 5-2 in the second, Harrison broke back and evened out the score to 5-5. Then things got interesting. Two quick errors by Federer, an error in line calling, and an interruption in play that caused Federer to stop playing all helped to escalate the energy on stadium court near the end of the final set.
With 28 winners, five aces and 3-of-8 break points won, Federer was clearly the better player but Harrison commented on Federer’s renewed authority on court:
“… from like a game standpoint, you can tell that [Federer is] hitting his shots with just like a complete conviction and confidence as opposed to … some times last year … he didn’t look like he had the same authority on a shot that he had.
… I mean, coming off of his match, as many matches as he has this year, he’s got this like authority about his game right now where he’s hitting his shots knowing he’s gonna make ‘em. It’s gonna make it difficult for anyone to beat him.”
Harrison continued with his revelations and talked about his expectation to win:
“As a player you’re always looking to win every match, and it starts one at a time. [You may] get stuck for a month or two or however long it is … [but] there’s nobody that’s ever been happy with being stuck unless you’re at No. 1. (Smiling.)
That’s the only time you’ll ever be happy being stuck. Every day you’re gonna look to improve. You’re gonna approach every match ‑ at least I am ‑ with the expectation of winning.
Just if you’d ask me going into this week, What’s what’s your expectation for the tournament, I’d say, I’m gonna try to win every match and do as well as I can and try to win the tournament.
Didn’t win this week, so I’m gonna look for it to happen next week. That’s the way I’m gonna approach things.”
Finally, Harrison addressed his ranking and tournament performance goals with an air of maturity far beyond his years. This is outright one of the best explanations for why not to set goals, and quite honestly, it makes sense:
“I don’t believe in setting a specific ranking goal or a specific round that you want to get to.
Because let’s say I would have chose, ‘Let’s get to the round of 16 here. Okay?’ Then I get to the round of 16, well am I going to go into the match expecting to lose? What happens then?
… So ultimately what I’m gonna look to do is every day at practice, every day in a match, I’m gonna try and work on the things and incorporate the things that need to improve, whether it be higher first serve percentage today or being a little more aggressive with my forehand, looking to come in a little more, just different things that I need to improve on.
Hopefully that gets me where I want to go, which is ultimately in contention for Grand Slams. Obviously I’ve got a ways to go to get there, but that’s the ultimate goal.”
By Ritesh Gupta
The ball went up in the air and the way it swirled in the cold windy conditions, it looked as if the server completely lost the connection with the ball for that split second. He decided not to connect and chose to have a re-go at it. Nothing unusual till this point, especially considering the playing conditions. But what stood out was the way all of this was taken in his stride by the server, without even a semblance of uneasiness. In fact, what he did before returning to his service stance, exemplified what the man, who happened to be Roger Federer, is all about.
As Federer took steps towards the service line, with his collar going up and down, and hair continuously being blown away, he chose to stretch his arms!
Now be it for being calm about intricacies of playing in such environment or focusing on the job at hand, Federer just goes about tennis as if nothing can come in between him and his sport.
All this happened during the early stages of the third set of his eventual 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 win over Robin Soderling in the quarterfinals of the US Open.
Going by the style of play of the two players, especially the high service toss and the huge forehand swing of Soderling, one would be tempted to say that the Swede definitely was expected to have a tough time vis-a-vis his opponent. Even if one considers this, the way Federer served against Soderling was simply immaculate. Soderling served bigger, but Federer was much better in the same department. The Swiss maestro served 18 aces to Soderling’s two.
The service statistics for the match show how Federer adapted to the conditions. But for him, it was just another day.
In the post match, on-court interview, Federer said if he can’t serve in the windy conditions, after doing all this in his life, then there is definitely problem out there! He said be it for 2 o’clock or 4 o’clock in the morning, he can be taken out of the bed and he would still be able to serve. When a man of Federer’s stature says all this, it definitely isn’t arrogance. Its just sheer passion for the sport.
Other than his positive attitude, Federer looked in prime touch.
Soderling struggled and looked very unsettled at times. He missed four breakpoints in the first set. On the other hand, Federer converted on his first opportunity and that is all he needed.
Soderling broke Federer with a great defensive return followed by a passing shot early on in the second set. But the Swede was again broken in the following game. In fact, the slide was started by an error from Soderling to finish the game at 40-0 at 2-1. A high ball, which swirled, resulted in the Swede attempting a stroke in an awkward position. After that, his forehand deserted him twice. On the other side, Federer just went about his task the way he usually does.
Soderling exerted pressure in the third set but Federer soaked in all of it, in fact at times showing great defensive skills. The Swede did break in the eight game to go up 5-3. But Federer again broke back immediately, as Soderling netted two forehands at 30-30. Continuing in the same vein, the Swiss wrapped up the set and the match in the 12th game.
Federer is now 16-0 in night matches played on Arthur Ashe Stadium. This victory signals Federer’s readiness for the battle against Novak Djokovic for a place in the final. The triumph also resulted in a settling of scores as Soderling had beaten Federer in their last meeting at the French Open.
By Maud Watson
The Tumble Continues – One of the big headlines at the All England Club this past Wednesday was the dismissal of six-time champion Roger Federer at the hands of Tomas Berdych. Despite Federer’s history at SW19 and the difference in seeding between the two, I have trouble calling this a big upset. Berdych possesses a big game, he clipped Federer earlier this year, and over the past few months, Berdych has been the better player. There’s no doubt this was probably the most painful loss Federer has suffered since his 2008 defeat to Nadal, and the early loss also means that Federer will slip to No. 3 in the rankings, the first time he’s been out of the top two since 2003. It will take time for him to bounce back from this one, but I’m not ready to sell my Federer stock just yet. The fact is, any year you win a major is a good year. Plenty of players would still gladly trade places with Federer. It’s the nature of the beast that he has set the bar so high that any loss such as this is that much more monumental because it happened to one of the greatest players to have ever picked up a racquet. Fans of the man from Switzerland are going to have to get used to these losses coming with more frequency, but don’t stick a fork in him. He’s not done yet.
Roddick Rocked – Wimbledon has continued to see a few more shockers this week, and one of the biggest was Roddick’s exit to Yen-Hsun Lu of Chinese Taipei. Lu played an incredible match beginning to end and most amazing is the fact that he found a way to cross the finish line even as he admitted that he never believed he was going to win the match. But as happy as one might have felt for Lu, there had to be some sympathy spared for Roddick. Had he been told prior to the match that he was going to hit more aces, less unforced errors, more winners, have more break chances, and win more total points, I’m sure he would have liked his odds at advancing. But just as with last year’s final, it came down to a handful of big points and one crucial break in the final set. The loss isn’t as gut-wrenching as his 2009 final loss to Federer, but he’ll want to look to get something going fast on the hard courts, or he’s apt to start slipping into a slump.
Venus Vanquished – The women’s quarters also provided a surprise when Tsvetana Pironkova routinely upended Venus Williams 2 and 3. It was a lackluster display from Williams, who despite hitting 10 more winners than her younger opponent also hit 23 more unforced errors. The fact that the elder Williams never found a way to win the match wasn’t an entire surprise, as neither Williams sister is known for having game plan B when the wheels come off. The good news for her is that an early loss, irrespective of the tournament, rarely tends to have any hangover effect. She’ll still be considered a strong contender during the US Open Series and the final major of the year.
Double Trouble – I’d be remiss not to mention a couple of upsets in the doubles competition. The Williams sisters, on what seemed an inevitable path to becoming just the third team in history to accomplish the Grand Slam, lost to the hard-hitting combo of Vera Zvonareva and Elena Vesnina. On the men’s side, Wesley Moodie and Dick Norman also denied seeing history made, at least for the time being, with their defeat over the American team of Bob and Mike Bryan. The Bryans were aiming to break their tie with the Woodies for most titles won as a team just a week prior to the induction of the Australian pair into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. As disappointing as the losses must have been for each of these losing teams, they will be back with a vengeance in New York, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Bryans standing atop the mountain alone for most titles won before the final major of the year.
Fine Time – Earlier this week, Rafael Nadal was slapped with a $2,000 fine for illegal coaching. Chair umpire Cedric Mourier could hardly be blamed for giving Nadal the warning, having given him an unofficial warning to stop the chatter with his box earlier in the match. The case was made even stronger given that in his defense of this particular incident, Nadal basically admitted to having received illegal coaching at other times. But Nadal is not the only player guilty of this offense. Justine Henin is notorious for this, as is Maria Sharapova, and many more could be added to the list. I’m not naïve enough to think that illegal coaching will ever be completely eradicated, but it was refreshing to see someone have the backbone to try and enforce the rule and reduce it. Coaches are paid to scout the competition, and it’s up to the player and coach to devise a game plan prior to a match. Once a match starts, it should be one-on-one out there and up to the players to make the necessary adjustments to come out with a W. That’s one of the unique aspects of tennis. So I hope that the officials continue to do their best and enforce the rules at all levels of the competition and preserve the integrity of the game.
By Ritesh Gupta
Witnessing a contrasting duel where one thrives on pace while the other seldom offers the same is something one hardly comes across in the men’s tennis today. Deft touches, exchanges at the net, pulsating half-volleys…all this is a treat to watch especially on the hallowed courts at Wimbledon.
Such contrasting style of play came to the fore as France’s Michael Llodra tested Andy Roddick in the second round at Wimbledon today.
Though Llodra lost 6-4, 4-6, 1-6, 6-7 (2-7), the left-hander won many hearts with his skillful play, with class written all over it. It was surely an exquisite performance from Llodra but he couldn’t carry the same form once he lost his serve to loose the second set.
It’s a rare sight to see somebody of Roddick’s calibre being hurried into strokes. Llodra, who won the Eastbourne tournament prior to this championship, posed a serious threat after bagging the first set. Be it for pushing Roddick wide off the court or his display at the net, Llodra produced some immaculate stuff during the initial stages.
To his credit, Roddick, though at the receiving end, hung on. After Llodra fired two aces to finish the first set, he earned two break points in the very first game of the second set. Llodra not only hustled Roddick with chip and charge but he also showed his class with subtle variations in pace to unsettle Roddick. This was perhaps the best chance but Llodra couldn’t break the serve.
The American, who has lost in final thrice here, gradually got into his groove and broke the shackles in the tenth game. An insipid service game from Llodra changed the course of the match. Llodra, who held his service with aplomb till then, came up with uncharacteristic missed drop volley and even Roddick, too, forced an error at a crucial stage with a wonderful low service return, which Llodra failed to retrieve at the net. Roddick made it one set apiece at this juncture.
Thereafter, Roddick sustained the tempo and took control despite facing breakpoints in a couple of games in the third set. He wrapped up the match by pressurising Llodra in the fourth set tie-break, reeling off five points in a row.
Roddick, who came so close to lifting this championship against Roger Federer last year, is surely a contender this year, too. For him, this victory augurs well as Llodra is one of the tougher players to play on grass.
In the run-up to the Wimbledon, Llodra had won eight matches in two tournaments. He had his chances against Roddick but he wilted under the pressure when it mattered the most.
Robin Soderling came to Rotterdam having lost his last six matches and started the tournament by losing the first set in his opening match with Florent Serra. But since then, he played some of best indoor tennis and won nine consecutive sets, at 6-4 2-0 for him in the final, a 2007 champion Mikhaily Youzhny was forced to retire because of right hamstring. Youzhny had beaten a new No 2 Novak Djokovic in the semifinal in two tie-breaks. “It’s been a very good week overall,” said Soderling who won his fifth title. “I started out struggling a bit in my first two rounds, struggling to find my form, but I worked hard and managed to get better with every match”.
Fernando Verdasco claimed his fourth career title (first indoor) after beating Andy Roddick 3-6 6-4 6-4 in the final of SAP Open in San Jose. For the Spaniard, it was the first ever indoor tournament in USA. Verdasco broke Roddick’s serve at 1:1 in the second set and at 4:4 in the third set to finish the match with his 15th aces (Roddick served 10). Roddick has already won 13 matches this season, second best after Marin Cilic (15). The 19-year-old Ricardas Berankis (No. 255) of Lithuania, became the first man from his country to reach an ATP singles quarterfinal.
Juan Carlos Ferrero needed only 60 minutes to demolish Lukasz Kubot 6-1 6-0 in Costa Do Saupe, Brazil. Ferrero who celebrated his 30th birthday during the tournament, won the 13th title in his 30th career final. “You never expect to play a one-sided final like this,” admitted Ferrero. “One is always nervous in the beginning of a final, and it wasn’t different today. I thought I played well from the beginning and with two breaks of serve ahead quite early in the match I never looked back”. Kubot reached his second final of his career and for the second time lost to a top-seeded player (lost to Djokovic the final in Belgrade 2009). The Pole had had very busy Friday – he won two singles matches and one doubles (losing only 13 games in the process) before overcoming Igor Andreev in the semifinal despite being down 1:3 in the final set.
With the crowd against him and Andy Roddick becoming more energized as the match progressed, John Isner dug deep to pull off the biggest upset of his career.
As day turned into night in front of a packed crowd on Arthur Ashe Stadium, Isner hit a staggering 90 winners in his nearly four hour match with Roddick, bringing the crowd to its feet as he advanced into the 4th round with a 7-6 (3), 6-3, 3-6, 5-7, 7-6 (5) victory.
“Once I got the first set, I knew that I was in with a chance,” said Isner. “He wore me down and had me on a string when we played a few weeks ago (in Washington D.C.), so I knew I had to be more aggressive in this match.”
The first set went by in straightforward fashion, with each player holding their serve throughout. Isner went down 0-40 while serving at 3-3, but rallied with two aces and a forehand winner to eventually take the game.
A forehand into the net sent Isner down an early mini-break in the first set tiebreaker, but he immediately rebounded with a string of winners. A backhand passing shot gave Isner back the mini-break on Roddick’s serve, and he followed it up with four more consecutive winners to give himself four set points. A missed forehand erased one of them, but a 112 MPH second serve ace on the next point allowed Isner to take the opening set.
“You can’t teach 6’9”,” said Roddick. “He’s serving out of a tree and really dialed in with his ground strokes in that tiebreaker. I don’t know if I really did anything wrong out there. He just hit his spots when he needed to.”
Midway through the second set, with Isner leading 3-2, Roddick mistimed two forehands in a row to send go down double break point. One point later, Isner guided Roddick into the net with a drop shot and then sent a backhand pass up the line to take a 4-2 lead.
The break of serve would be all that the Greensboro native needed. A volley winner while leading 5-3 gave Isner two set points. On his first one, Isner hammered down his 17th ace of the match at that point and took a commanding two set lead.
At 1-1 in the third set, Isner had triple break point on Roddick’s serve after the former US Open champion’s backhand began to betray him. With the crowd now squarely on Roddick’s side, he erased all three points and then hit a 128 MPH ace to deny a fourth chance for Isner to break.
With Isner serving down 3-4, Roddick began to display a retrieving ability normally uncharacteristic of his style. He returned an Isner overhead to force a volley error, giving him two break points. On his second opportunity, Roddick ran down an Isner volley and hit a forehand winner up the line to lead 5-3. He quickly held serve, hitting an ace on his first set point to take the third set.
The effects of the match began to take their toll on Isner. He began moving more slowly and started stretching his left leg during the changeovers. Roddick had a chance to break Isner’s serve at 3-3, but the former NCAA champion bravely knocked off a volley winner and eventually kept the match on serve.
With Roddick serving at 4-5, he hit his first double fault of the match to give Isner a match point. What looked to be the finish ended up being the last point that Isner would win in the set.
A 121 MPH ace by Roddick brought the game back to deuce and the crowd gave him a standing ovation. Two more big serves leveled the match at 5-5. With the sold-out stadium chanting “Let’s go Roddick,” Isner appeared overwhelmed by the occasion. He missed two routine forehands and then hit an overhead well beyond the baseline to go down triple break point in the game. A forehand pass by Roddick gave him the break, and he leveled the match at two sets each with a 130 MPH serve.
“I wasn’t too upset about it because there wasn’t anything I could do,” said Isner. “I might have thought about it differently if it was a missed overhead or an easy shot, but he aced me. It was just too good.”
Isner went down 0-30 in his opening service game, but ended his losing streak at 13 consecutive points with an ace, eventually holding serve to start the 5th set. Despite taking an early lead, Roddick still looked fresh as the match wore on, while Isner began gingerly around the baseline, eventually calling for the trainer at 3-2.
“I was cramping a little bit late in the match,” said Isner. “He was definitely the fresher of the two of us out there, but I knew that I was still in the match.”
The two players traded service holds to force a deciding tiebreaker after nearly four hours of play. With Isner up 3-2 on Roddick’s serve, he hit one of his only cross-court passing shots of the day to grab the mini-break and a 4-2 lead.
“That’s when you have to tip your hat,” said Roddick. “I was covering the line because he had been going there all day, and you don’t expect to see a low dipping crosscourt shot at a moment like that.”
A successful serve and volley play on Isner’s second serve, followed by a drop volley winner, gave Isner two match points at 6-3. Roddick removed the first two match points with aces of his own, forcing Isner to serve it out. Coming in behind a short backhand by Roddick, Isner’s first volley forced Roddick to hit a forehand into the net. Isner dropped to the ground in celebration as the crowd rose to their feet, cheering for the arrival of a new American star.
“I don’t know if (the win) has really sunk in yet,” said Isner. “It’s by far the biggest win of my career, hands down. Nothing even comes close. And I kind of knew that if the match went a little bit long, it would turn into a night match and I really wanted to be in that atmosphere. The crowd was giving me goose bumps at times.
Ranked well outside the top 100 just three months ago, Isner will find himself just outside of the top 40 with his first ever appearance in the second week of a Grand Slam.
“If you had told me this would happen a month ago, I wouldn’t have believed you,” said Isner. “Being out with mono for a month, you’re not even sure if you’ll be able to play the US Open, let alone do well. You can definitely say I’m a bit surprised by all of this.
With a fourth round showdown against No. 10 seed Fernando Verdasco scheduled for Monday, Isner said he’s looking forward to going even further in the tournament.
“It’s a great win to have, but I still feel like I can do some damage,” said Isner. “I’m not satisfied just yet.”
Coming into the US Open, Fresno native Robert Kendrick hoped to reach the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time, but his dreams were cut short on Thursday morning.
Facing an in-form Tommy Hass, the No. 20 seed in the event, Kendrick was unable to break Haas’s serve while facing break points in over half of his own service games, falling 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (3) on the Grandstand court.
“He doesn’t give you very many chances out there, and I wasn’t able to use the ones that I had,” said Kendrick.
Kendrick had two break points in Haas’s first service game to go up 2-0, but Haas saved them both with aces. They were the only chances that Kendrick had in the set as Haas unleashed a flurry of forehand winners, eventually breaking Kendrick at 3-3 and riding that lead to a 6-4 opening set.
An ace by Kendrick on game point at 3-3 was ultimately called a fault after Hawkeye (the electronic challenge system used at the US Open) overruled the call. Two points later, A mistimed lob by Kendrick sent him down 4-3 as he smashed his racket to the ground.
Down two set points at 3-5, Kendrick hit two service winners to win that game and make Haas serve out the set. Kendrick had two points to level the set at 5-5, but a winner by Haas and a mistimed forehand by Kendrick erased them. An ace by Haas on his fourth set point gave him a commanding two set lead.
“That was probably the turning point,” said Kendrick. “If I had won one of those points, anything could have happened.”
Kendrick soon found himself scrambling to stay in the match, fighting off a break point in his opening service game with a 126 MPH ace, and again at 2-2 with a forehand winner. Two groundstroke errors found Kendrick down break point at 4-4, but he hit two service winners to eventually hold for a 5-4 lead. Down break point once more at 5-5, Kendrick hit a volley winner to erase the deficit and eventually hold serve.
The third set tiebreaker was a one-sided affair. A volley into the net sent Kendrick down an early mini-break, and Haas soon took a 3-0 lead. An overhead by Haas on his first match point sent him into the third round.
Kendrick said he will head to Asia next to play a three week series of ATP events in the fall.
Taking advantage of a visibly injured opponent, Kendrick crushed groundstroke winners in front of a packed crowd on Court 4, easily moving into the second round with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 win over Martin Vasallo-Arguello of Argentina.
Vasallo-Arguello, a clay-court specialist known primarily for his retrieving skills, looked to be moving lethargically throughout the match. Standing well behind the baseline, his shots lacked power and depth, allowing Kendrick to dominate the rallies.
Kendrick broke Vasallo-Arguello in his first service game, holding on to the lead throughout the set before winning it, 6-3. In the second set, Kendrick increased his first service percentage and showed more of a willingness to come into the net, taking advantage of his opponent’s limited power.
“I had a good warm-up this morning and came out playing well from the first point,” said Kendrick. “I try to take control of the points anyway, but with his style of play, I knew this was my match to win or lose.”
Kendrick raced to a 4-0 lead into the second set and had game points for 5-0 before Vasallo-Arguello held serve with a well-timed drop shot. Kendrick fired off aces in each of his next service games to take the second set, 6-2.
A winning lob by Kendrick gave him an early break to the third set as a dejected Arguello threw his racket to the ground. Kendrick gave himself an extra break at 3-1 with a winning forehand volley, and an ace on his first match point sent him into the second round.
After mainly playing on the challenger circuit for most of his career, Kendrick has almost exclusively played ATP Tour events in 2009. He has posted solid results including a 3rd round finish in Miami and winning a round at Roland Garros. His most memorable match came in the first round of Wimbledon, where he took a set off then world No. 3 Andy Murray on Center Court before losing in first sets.
Kendrick, who will play No. 21 seed Tommy Haas of Germany in the second round, is now seeking to reach the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time in his career.
“I’m not too worried about the match,” said Kendrick. “I’ll have a day off before and know that I can play with anyone if my game is on.”
Defending champion and No. 3 seed Andy Murray of Scotland rallied from a set and break down in the second set to edge past lucky loser Julien Benneteau of France, 4-6, 6-3, 6-1, in two hours and 11 minutes on Friday afternoon to advance to the semifinals at the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters 1000 in Cincinnati.
The 22-year-old Scot, who is the new No. 2 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings after winning the title last week in Montreal, struggled to find his form after breaking to take a 3-2 lead. Following the service break, the 27-year-old Frenchman immediately broke Murray’s serve to level the match at 3-3 before winning three of the next four games to take the opening set, 6-4.
“I knew I had to be aggressive,” said Benneteau, who got in the main draw when Juan Martin del Potro withdrew after the draw was made.
Benneteau, who is currently ranked No. 55, secured an early break in the second set to go ahead 2-0 and looked to have a big edge on Murray, who looked out of sorts on all his shots.
The turning point occurred in the next game when Murray won a thrilling 53-shot rally and quickly broke back to get back on serve. The Scot, who has now won a record 53 matches this season, insisted the 53-shot rally changed the rest of the match.
“Oh, it made a big different,” said Murray, who has won five titles this year in Doha, Rotterdam, Miami, Queen’s Club and Montreal. “I think he was very tired after that rally. I managed to stay strong after that.”
The momentum shifted immediately and it was all Murray from that point on, dropping just two more games en route to victory.
“You know, he’s been around a long time and he’s very experienced and obviously made it very difficult today,” said Murray, who has reached five of the last nine ATP World Tour Masters 1000 finals dating back to his victory in Cincinnati last August.
Murray, who earned his 72nd career win in a Masters 1000 event, smashed seven aces, won 70 percent of first serve points and broke Benneteau’s serve on six of 13 opportunities. Benneteau hit four aces, three double faults, won 59 percent of first serve points and was able to break Murray’s serve three times.
Murray’s semifinal opponent on Saturday afternoon will be world No. 1 Roger Federer, who eased past former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt of Australia, 6-3, 6-4, in 70 minutes.
Federer, who earned his 200th career win at a Masters 1000 event, was in complete control from start to finish, breaking serve once in each set to win convincingly. Federer’s serve was superb, winning 24 of 27 first serve points, smashing 11 aces, while not facing a break point the entire match.
The 15-time Grand Slam singles champion insisted holding serve against Hewitt is an important thing to accomplish during a match with the fiery Aussie.
“I think that definitely helps against Lleyton, who once he gets his teeth into your serve it can get quite tricky,” said Federer, who improved to 9-1 in quarterfinal matches this season.
Hewitt, who reached the finals in Cincinnati in 2002 and 2004, only managed to hit two aces and win 69 percent of his first serve points.
Federer improved to 15-7 against Hewitt, winning the last 13 meetings.
“He’s beaten me so many times in the past that I didn’t expect myself to all of a sudden go on such a great run against him,” said Federer, whose loss to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga last week in Montreal was his first loss since losing at the Masters 1000 in Madrid in May.
In the late match, No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal of Spain continued his impressive return from a knee tendinitis injury, dispatching Tomas Berdych of Czech Republic, 6-4, 7-5, in one hour and 41 minutes.
Nadal, who has won six Grand Slam singles titles including four French Open titles, was impressive on serve throughout, hitting two aces and winning 35 of 41 first serve points. The 23-year-old Spaniard was also able to break serve twice on six opportunities.
The former world No. 1 will face No. 4 seed Novak Djokovic in the night match on Saturday. Djokovic won his quarterfinal match by defeating Frenchman Gilles Simon, 6-4, 7-5, to advance to his second straight semifinal in Cincinnati.