Roddick withstands challenge for the ages

Andy Roddick was given a challenge for his 21st birthday and the American responded with a tie-breaker rally for the ages as the clock struck midnight on Ivan Ljubicic's upset bid.

india Updated: Aug 30, 2003 11:23 IST

Andy Roddick was given a challenge for his 21st birthday and the American responded with a tie-breaker rally for the ages at the US Open as the clock struck midnight on Ivan Ljubicic's upset bid.

American fourth seed Roddick battled past the 43rd-ranked Croatian 6-3, 6-7 (4/7), 6-3, 7-6 (10/8) here in a match that lasted three hours and five minutes and ended here early Saturday morning, minutes into Roddick's 21st birthday.

"I've been 21 for nine minutes now. I think I deserve a beer," Roddick said moments after advancing to the third round. He was presented a cake and led the crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium in a rendition of "Happy Birthday to You".

"I don't know if I have ever played in front of a louder crowd," Roddick said. "They were really into it. I was kind of feeding off of it."

After going 21-1 and winning three hardcourt titles since Wimbledon, Roddick seized the ATP Champions Race lead and became a favorite here. But he struggled to subdue a stubborn rival who broke him only once but battled to the finish.

Roddick trailed Ljubicic 5-2 in the final tie-breaker when midnight struck. He turned 21, his match fortunes changing with his age as Ljubicic double faulted and Roddick won eight of the final 11 points.

After saving four set points, Roddick fired a 138-mph ace to earn his first match point. Ljubicic hit a forehand volley winner to save it but Roddick followed with a forehand winner and Ljubicic fired a final lob long to end it.

After the match, Ljubicic ripped Roddick for playing to the crowd with antics that affected line call's and umpire decisions.

"Anywhere in the world except in the United States, if we played this match, I would have won," Ljubicic said. "It affected the linesmen, the crowd, everyone else except me. In a match like this, that's what made the change."

Roddick, who next faces Brazil's 49th-ranked Flavio Saretta, sad Ljubicic was being a sore loser.

"That's pretty much sour grapes," Roddick said. "That doesn't deserve a response. That's not respectful. I definitely dont have anything bad to say about him. That's disappointing."

Ljubicic was irate over a forehand winner on the sideline by Roddick that leveled the final tie-breaker at 7-7. He sank to his knees when the call was made, appealing in vain for an over-rule from the umpire.

"What can I say? If he's going to change it, he's going to change it straight away," Ljubicic said.

"If he's not changing it in one or two seconds, you can talk all night and he's not going to change it.

"That was the crucial point. I'm excpecting some bad calls but it hurts when it happens in the crucial moment like that."

Roddick said the ball was good and television replays supported him, even though Ljubicic said he called the ball good before it landed and linesmen were too intimidated to contradict him before a cheering crowd.

"There was no space but maybe he was trying to be demonstrative trying to get a call," Roddick said. "I don't know why he has to drag me into the call."

Roddick cruised through the first set and was up a break in the second when Ljubicic responded with his only break of the match to force the tie-breaker and stayed aggressive with a variety of shots.

"I let him back into the match in the second set and he started playing a lot better," Roddick said.
"He definitely lifted his level. In the tie-breakers he played really good tennis."

The late-night struggle stole the thunder from a day of routine results as men completed the second round and women began the third.

Swiss second seed Roger Federer took only 78 minutes to dispatch Jean-Rene Lisnard 6-1, 6-2, 6-0, and take his ATP-best 60th victory of the year.

"It went well for me. I didn't expect to beat him so easy," said Federer, trying to become the first man since Pete Sampras in 1995 to win here and at Wimbledon in the same year.

Federer's next foe is hometown hero James Blake, a 23-year-old speedster from Harlem who figures to have loud and vocal support. Blake, rated 35th, faced Australia's Lleyton Hewitt here the past two years.

"Two years ago Lleyton was third seed, then he was top seed, now (I have) the second seed," Blake said. "Hometown kid, they could rig a draw for me or something."

Kim Clijsters, the only top-ranked woman never to win a Slam title, battled breezes to eliminate 29th-ranked Russian teen Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3, 6-2.

"The wind was pretty tough," Clijsters said. "You have to look after your footwork and make sure you take small steps."

The 20-year-old Belgian will try to match her best US Open showing Sunday by beating 17th-seeded American Meghann Shaughnessy to reach the quarter-finals.

Third seed Lindsay Davenport took just 42 minutes to beat Hungary's Melinda Czink 6-0, 6-2 while fifth seed Amelie Mauresmo of France ousted the final qualifier, 16-year-old Russian Slam debutante Maria Kirilenko, 6-4, 6-2.

Pierce will next face Thailand's Tamarine Tanasugarn, who upset ninth seed Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia 6-2, 6-4.

Australian Mark Philippoussis and Argentina's David Nalbandian, the past two Wimbledon runner-ups, booked a third-round meeting.

Philippoussis beat Frenchman 64th-ranked Frenchman Anthony Dupuis 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 while 13th seed Nalbandian outlasted Finland's Jarkko Nieminen 5-7, 6-3, 6-1, 4-6, 7-6 (7/3).

First Published: Aug 30, 2003 09:23 IST