Hold The Retirement For Another Day

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – And he lives on. Andy Roddick delayed his retirement by at least another two days by beating Fabio Fognini of Italy in a hard fought 7-5, 7-6, 4-6 and 6-4 match before a very highly partisan Roddick crowd.

The match featured many entertaining rallies and a between the legs shot by Fognini which almost passed Roddick at net.

There is no doubt that Roddick is suffering from a hurt right shoulder, but he is deriving energy from the crowd. He noted that, “it was loud out there, about as loud as I remember.”

Roddick will have a much harder time Tuesday night as a decided underdog against Juan Martin Del Potro, like Roddick also a US Open winner and the only player besides Federer, Djokovic and Nadal to win a major in the last 30.

Roddick is 1-3 all-time against Del Potro, winning their last contest in Memphis in 2011. All of Roddick’s losses have been close.

Fognini called Del Potro a slight favorite but would not be surprised with a win by Roddick.

Roddick feels that he has an edge in serve but that Del Potro has an edge in his return game.

The New Blake

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – James Blake seemed very pleased when asked about his bloved New York Mets. Last year he was blunt about his feelings about the management, saying general manager Omar Minaya and manager Jerry Manuel “must go.”

And now that Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins took their places he seemed like a very happy fan.

“That is good,” he said with a smile. “I wish we could have kept Beltran and will keep Reyes. This year was a tough one as the last few have been. We are a little more optimistic than we were last year.”

Yet, even though he wears his trademark Mets cap after every match, baseball is his hobby and tennis is his job and after a tough 2010 where he was injured, Blake seems very content with his 2011 performance.

So much so that he wants to continue playing even after this season.

“I want to play this year and I want to play next year and the year after that. My body was worse off last year. I have ice on now, but that’s just preventative,” he said after he won his first round match against Jesse Huta Galung, 6-4 6-2 4-6 6-4. “I feel good. My legs are back under me and I am feeling great. I am happy to be playing here at 60 in the world and hopefully I am on the path moving upward. I am having fun and I love playing here with as much fun as I am having.”

With a bad shoulder and bad knee, tennis became a chore for the 31 year-old New Yorker. He struggled through matches last year and ultimately looked for different answers. He found that less is more and let his body heal itself.

“I think it was just general healing. My trainer and I have been on the path to get this healthy. At one point we were at a little bit of pain and we just accepted it. We tried to get it to perfect. At 31 years-old there will be nagging things and it will be hard to be this old and not have things after beating up my body for 12 years.

“Once that happened and once I relaxed and didn’t stress about it, there was less pain. I didn’t think about it as much and it’s really been incredible. All the treatment have been the same, but we did change a little bit on how we did with the ibuprofen and message and stuff, but no huge changes. We just worked smarter.”

And it worked against Huta Galung with a four set win. He was in total control during the first two sets, but has a bit of a hiccup in the third, ultimately finishing off the Dutchman in four sets.

Blake was very pleased with the results.

“It’s never easy when you are playing guys who are hungry to win, are talented and have the confidence to win,” Blake said. “I played the first two sets. In the third set he stepped his game up. I played one bad game and broke myself but he played hard to get back into that set. That was on him. He played great.

“The fourth set, I was in control getting more looks than his looks and I just played a good game to break me. I just broke back and the crowd helped me there. He looked uncomfortable at that time when I was up. I don’t know how many matches he played here, but nerves can get to you. That can definitely be a factor.

“When I got that break I was real confident.”

He hopes to continue that confidence in the second round against fifth ranked David Ferrer, a buzz saw of a second round matchup, although Blake had success against the Spaniard in the past with a 2-0 record.

“I have a ton of respect for him,” Blake said. “He played in incredible match in the Davis Cup to beat Mardy [Fish]. I have a tremendous respect for him. I am 2-0 against him and I hope to continue that pattern. He’s a tremendous player and I have been seeded up there and not seeded and if you want to go deep you have to beat some seeded players. It’s what I have to deal with it from where I am.”

Last year you had to wonder if Blake could win, but this is a new James Blake or rather the old James Blake.

“I hope it’s more like the old James Blake before the knee injury and before the shoulder was back,” he said. “Either way I am having a lot of fun and I am trying to get back to getting better and having fun doing that.”

Now if only the Mets could have the same success.

Davydenko Dumped by Gasquet

Sixth-seeded Nikolay Davydenko became the highest-seeded man to fall from the US Open field in suffering a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 second-round setback to Richard Gasquet on the Grandstand court. The two-time US Open semifinalist had a visceral response to his loss —  Davydenko is prepared to get trashed.

Actually, the 29-year-old Russian is ready to toss his racquets in the trash. Davydenko, who endorses Dunlop and wears Dunlop apparel has been playing with his old, unmarked Prince frame, but vowed to throw those in the garbage and actually begin playing with Dunlop in his next tournament.

“I talked to my brother and I will change all my racquets,” Davydenko said after the match. “I will completely change to Dunlop and throw all of my (old) racquets in the garbage.”

While the frames will take the fall for the lose, Davydenko, who missed 11 weeks after breaking his left wrist in Indian Wells and has won back-to-back matches just once since launching his comeback in June in Halle, concedes his issues may be more mental than physical or technical.

“I don’t know if it’s a wrist problem or a head problem,” Davydenko said, stretching his legs out before him and staring down at his shoelaces for a moment. “After my injury, I play everything bad. I change from 18-string Prince to play 16-string during hard courts to try to get more control and top spin, but I have no confidence, no baseline game.”

In addition to an equipment change, he’s contemplating a head change.

“Maybe I need to go somewhere to change my brain,” Davydenko deadpanned.

It was the first meeting between the pair in five years and while Davydenko hugs the baseline, takes the ball earlier and theoretically should be able to take the first strike in rallies it was Gasquet who took control in the baseline rallies in registering his second top 10 win of the season and first since he claimed his sixth career title beating Fernando Verdasco in Nice.

The 38th-ranked Frenchman has top 10 talent, who reached the US Open round of 16 in both 2005 and 2006, will play either No. 26 seed Thomaz Bellucci or big-serving Kevin Anderson for a place in the fourth round.

Asked to assess Gasquet’s level of play, Davydenko sounded stumped.

“It’s tough  for me to say because I cannot return first serve. He was just pushing me back in the middle with high balls and I was destroying myself.”

Rich Pagliaro is the editor of TennisNow.com.

Isner Just Getting Back After Wimbledon and Injury

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – The last time we saw John Isner at a major, it took him three days to get the win.

Needless to say, this time it was a little easier.

“Yeah, just a little bit,” laughed Isner after he disposed of Federico Gil, 6-4 6-3 6-4.  “I don’t know the exact time of my match tonight, but obviously it was a lot less time on the court.

“So for my second‑round match I should be a little bit fresher than I was at Wimbledon.”

Actually John, you were on the court for 1hour, 57 minutes, certainly much less than the 11+ you played in England.

Yet, even if this match was relatively uneventful, his weeks leading up to the US Open were filled with uncertainty. You see, Isner injured his ankle in Cincinnati, which was originally diagnosed as torn ligaments, but now seems to be just a bad sprain. Up to a week ago, he was not cleared by the his doctors, but now he has a clean bill of health.

“In my mind,” he said, “I didn’t think I was going to play, just because I didn’t think my ankle was ready.  But I got cleared to go.  Once I got that news it was all systems go, doing everything I possibly can to get ready for, you know, today’s match.”

Right now, Isner says the ankle is about 90 percent, but his legs are not in game shape after missing the last few weeks due to the injury. He felt it on the court today and feels he has to have a few matches before he gets back into full tournament shape.

“The issue when you hurt your ankle, everything else shuts down,” he said.  So that’s just what happens.  So I’ve just got to rebuild the strength in my legs.  That was the issue tonight. Because when you have that hurt ankle you’re not able to put any weight on it for a long time.  Everything on the right side of my body was shut down.  I have to get to the point where my left and right side are moving the same.”

The injury may have been a blessing in disguise for the 18th seed as he was able to stay away from the limelight the last few weeks. He needed to take time off after Wimbledon to unwind and even turned his phone off for a few days.

“I went into the Atlanta tournament and felt pretty good out there,” he said.  “But then when I went to play D.C. it all kind of hit me.  Either it was that match, kind of everything I did after the match, you know, a lot of interviews and whatnot, it kind of all just hit me.  I kind of ran out of gas in D.C.

“From there, I didn’t play Toronto.  I knew I needed to take some time off like completely.  That’s what I did.  I went home to North Carolina, turned my phone off for four days, got spoiled by my mom.  Then I went into Cincinnati feeling great.  Been hitting the ball great, just playing my best tennis.  Unfortunately I hurt my ankle.”

But now he’s back and enjoying his new found fame from the Eternal Match. Ironically, though, the first person he saw when he walked into the player’s lounge at Arthur Ashe was his opponent Nicholas Mahut .

“It was the first time I’ve seen him in person since the match,” Isner recalled.  What was it?  Monday morning, I didn’t fly into New York until Sunday night, so Monday midday I came to the courts for the first time.

“As soon as I stepped into the locker room, honestly he was the first person I saw.  We did the handshake, high five thing.  Sat and talked for about five minutes.  And ever since then, I keep running into him in the locker room and we talk.  I talk to his coaches.  He talks to my coach.

“Obviously, we’re definitely good friends now.”

Oz Just The Beginning For Roger

Last year, some wondered what happened to Roger Federer, especially after he dropped the Australian Open to Rafael Nadal.

This year, though, there’s no doubt the master is on track.

“It’s not something I’ve ever put in my mind that this is something I want to achieve,” Federer said after defeating Andy Murray in straight sets, 6-3 6-4 7-6. “I’ll still go and play the smaller tournaments, you know, the Masters 1000s, the ones we’re supposed to play. I try to give my best everywhere I go to, because I think there are not only the Grand Slams.

“Of course, they are important, but I try to respect every tournament that invites me to go play there. There’s the fans who pay tickets. I want to live up to my expectations, too.”

After a scare in the first round, Federer had a pretty easy time in the Oz Open as he dominated the competition in Melbourne. Although the more exciting matches over the past two weeks were played by others, the Swiss Master just went about his business.

“I always knew I had it in my hand,” he said. “The question is do I have it in my mind and in my legs, you know. That’s something I had to work extremely hard at. Now I feel like obviously I’m being pushed a great deal by the new generation coming up. I always feel sort of tennis changes sort of every five years.

“Because when I came on tour, matches were played very differently. It was more of a bluff game, guys serving well, but there was always a weakness you could go to. Today that doesn’t exist anymore. I think that’s also thanks to guys like Murray. They’ve made me a better player, because I think this has been one of my finest performances, you know, in a long time, or maybe forever.”

Now Federer is on track for that elusive Grand Slam. Even with all the major wins, he never won all four in a year, as the French always gave him problems. But now, after winning in Roland Garros last year, Federer has a real chance to nail down the elusive achievement.

Of course he will play the tournaments as they come, but Federer feels now that he’s in position to dominate everything in 2010.

“It’s not an easy thing to do to win your first Grand Slam,” Federer said. “That’s not mental, you know, trying to screw with his head, you know. It’s just a tough thing, you know.

“The next one is not going to get any easier. But his game is so good that I’m convinced he will win one, you know. And I thought he did really well tonight because conditions were tough. I mean, I think I played a great match. So someone’s got to win, and I’m happy it was me.”

The road ahead won’t be easy. Although Federer has said he’s become a better player, the rest of the field has become tougher as well. Besides the usual suspects, like Nadal, Murray, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Roddick, upstarts like US Open Champion Juan Martin Del Potro have become elite players, who will give Federer fits as he tries to nail down the Slam.

Yet, that’s what keeps the Swiss Master going. With every match he learns something about himself, on his quest for perfection.

“[It’s] a tough generation at the moment,” Federer said. “There’s many guys. You know, I’ve dominated hard court and grass for a long time; Rafa did clay. Rafa also became very strong on the other surfaces and so forth.

“So I think it’s just not an easy thing to do, Grand Slams, and I proved it again tonight.”

One down. Three to go.