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.

When the Rain Stops, The Matches Are Great

Will the rain ever stop? They’re praying it will so that the women can actually get their semis in sometime tonight.

Caroline Wozniacki takes on Yanina Wickmayer in the first match moved to Louis Armstrong. And the second semi pits reigning champ Serena Williams against comeback queen Kim Clijsters who has proven that she still has quite a bit of game even though she took two years off to get married and now has 18-month old daughter Jade following her.

Can the former 2005 Open winner rundown enough balls and hit with enough variety versus the powerful Serena, who is looking to make it three slams this year and four of the last five? Yet that’s not good enough to be ranked No.1. Everyone already has Williams taking the trophy but figure her to get a fight from the feisty 26 year-old from Belgium.

Though Serena has gone out of her way to praise Kim saying how she admires her, you know once they get out on Ashe, it’s on. And she’ll also be aiming for a measure of revenge for older sis Venus, who Clijsters ousted two previous rounds receiving plenty of love. So, the 11-time grand slam winner has plenty of incentive.

We’re just glad the men were finally able to complete the quarter that got suspended by a heavy downpour Thursday night. Even if poor Fernando Gonzalez offered token resistance, allowing Rafael Nadal to win the final four points of a crucial second set tiebreaker before getting bageled.

So, here’s Rafa again showing the tremendous heart in spite of the abdominal strain which was ailing him the other night. That the 23 year-old kid from Mallorca can give you this much effort when the odds are stacked against him tells us all we need to know about him. He’s two matches from making history by completing a career grand slam.

Don’t forget he beat Federer in five down under this year before Robin Soderling got him at Roland Garros and then Nadal couldn’t even defend his Wimbledon crown due to balky knees. Now, he will face tough sixth seeded Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro in one semi tomorrow. So, it won’t be easy against a player who has proven to be an excellent hard courter posting a 16-1 mark since Wimbledon. The last time they met, Del Potro won in straights at Montreal before losing to Andy Murray in the final.

The other semifinal hasn’t gotten much talk even though it’s Federer trying to keep his bid to match Bill Tilden’s six straight Opens alive against fourth seeded Serb Novak Djokovic. Here’s the kicker. They’re only meeting a third consecutive year with Feds prevailing in the 2007 final and last year’s semi in four sets going onto a fifth championship in a row over Murray.

So, even without Murray or Andy Roddick, there’s plenty of star power/storylines which will make the men’s Final Four compelling.

Let’s just hope the ladies can get their matches in tonight which is asking a lot with the weather not cooperating. Wozniacki is coming off her impressive 6-2, 6-2 quarterfinal win over new 17 year-old American sweetheart Melanie Oudin, whose run captivated everyone.

What the 19 year-old blonde bombshell from Denmark did was come in with a great strategy using her speed to play excellent defense while mixing in a consistent topspin forehand that forced Oudin to go for more resulting in unforced errors.

The ninth seed is a good player and this has been expected. She had never before made it past the fourth round until this tournament. But after disappointing results at the first three slams, Wozy has stepped up following her win in New Haven. Her game is a breath of fresh air in that she doesn’t just rely on power but on precision along with solid D to stay in points. Something which frustrated former Open champ Svetlana Kuznetsova in the Dane’s come from behind three set Round of 16 win.

Aside tom the consistency is the wonderful smile which can win crowds over as can her positive attitude, even admitting that when it got interesting early in the second set versus fan favorite Oudin, she didn’t show any frustration because the wise teen had used any negativity in her upsets over the big Russians to her edge.

Now, there will be even more pressure with Wozniacki facing another 19 year-old in Wickmayer. A player she knows well from juniors. Thus far, the Belgian has had a breakthrough of her own to reach this point. That included a first round straight set upset of No.16 seed Virginie Razzano and a come from behind three set Round Two triumph over Shuai Peng.

Wickmayer also had to show mettle rallying from a set down to defeat Dinara Safina conqueror Petra Kvitova in the fourth round. Even her quarter win over Kateryna Bondarenko got dicey when after sneaking out the first set late, she fell behind 1-4 having to save break points before righting herself to reel off the last five games for the big win.

Not bad for a player who’d never surpassed the second round of a major. Wickmayer hits a bigger ball than Wozniacki. So, she’ll likely be going for more while the counterpunching Wozniacki will try to use a similar gameplan that worked so well against Oudin. The contrast in style should make for an intriguing match.

Now if only the rain would go away.

Murray Just Too Much For Dent

Taylor Dent’s comeback story ended thanks to Andy Murray. The 2008 U.S. Open runner-up just had too much game for the 28 year-old American, coasting to a straight sets 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 victory at Ashe in Flushing tonight.

Against a good opponent whose serve-and-volley style tested his return game, the No.2 seeded Scot had all the answers in a virtuoso performance that makes him a strong contender to dethrone Roger Federer.

Amazingly enough, Murray got almost every powerful Dent serve back failing to return only six. That included two 145 MPH aces from the passionate guy who tried his best to make it a match with some crafty volleys which made for entertaining tennis.

But nothing was stopping Murray who after trading breaks in the first three games ratcheted up his level with a returning exhibition that made Tennis Channel analyst and former five-time Open winner Jimmy Connors proud. The precision with which he played made it difficult on Dent.

With the opening set still on serve at 4-3, Great Britain’s only hope at erasing Fred Perry’s name from the record book made his move earning a second break with a passing shot. He then served it out.

Dent continued to remain aggressive getting into net often but while he stuck to his game plan, the grinding Murray countered with quality shot making which included several of his 39 winners. Even when Dent had the edge in rallies with nifty touch, the younger 22 year-old scrambled after lob volleys running down every shot sending a message.

His return game was so effective that it made Dent pick his spots with the big man often staying back on second serves. Not shockingly, he didn’t win many points on seconds with Murray claiming 16 of 27. So much of a zone was he that he broke Dent consecutively to cruise through the middle set putting a damper on what fans came to see.

By the final set, even though Dent held twice for 2-1, the collective writing was on the wall because Murray was holding easily continuing to put the pressure squarely on his opponent’s shoulders. Eventually, his persistence paid off with a break for 3-2 thanks to some splendid return winners from both sides of the racket.

Though he didn’t get many chances converting one of two for the match, Dent had one opportunity to get it back. But Murray quickly erased it with a service winner taking the next couple of points for 4-2.

With the crowd sensing the end, they continued to urge the underdog on. But Murray would have none of it continuing to punish Dent serves by producing even more return passes. Clearly after dropping a set in his second round win, nothing was stopping him.

Even the net cord was on his side with a backhand fooling Dent to help get the double break that allowed him to serve out the match.

On his second match point, he punctuated it with a perfect backhand lob that initially was ruled out. But from the naked eye, it looked to catch part of the line. Obviously, Murray challenged and the replay showed that it barely got the edge giving him a third round victory.

The road will get tougher with 19 year-old Croat Marin Cilic next up in the Round of 16. The 16th seed was a 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 winner over Denis Istomin.

Also in that part of the section No.6 seeded Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro advanced in four sets over Austrian Daniel Koellerer 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3. Last year’s quarterfinalist aims for a second straight against 2003 finalist Juan Carlos Ferrero (24), who moved on when No.9 Frenchman Gilles Simon retired. Ferrero led 1-6, 6-4, 7-6 (5), 1-0.

If the higher seeds advance, it would setup a quarter rematch between Murray and Del Potro which Andy won in four last year.

Meanwhile, No.3 seeded Rafael Nadal kept it going with a straight set win over Spanish countryman Nicolas Almagro 7-5, 6-4, 6-4. The six-time slam winner won without a problem despite needing the trainer to treat a reinjured abdominal strain late in the third set. The tough champ closed it out in style with a whipping backhand crosscourt before getting a pat on the back from Almagro.

“I don’t want to talk about injuries,” Nadal pointed out. “Sorry. No, no. I am a little bit tired to talk about injuries.”

Who could blame him? He gives his all every point and will need to even more against electrifying 13 seed Gael Monfils, who ousted Jose Acasuso in straights 6-3, 6-4, 6-1. No doubt Monfils speed and athleticism along with shot ability should be a good test for Rafa in Round Four.

The winner gets either No.7 Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or No.11 Chilean Fernando Gonzalez. Each posted straight set wins over Julien Benneteau and Tomas Berdych respectively.

In the women’s portion of the night session, it was 10th seeded Italian Flavia Pennetta showing true mettle by saving six match points late in the second including a pair in a tiebreak before pulling out a well earned 3-6, 7-6 (6), 6-0 win over No.7 Russian Vera Zvonareva. For her trouble, she draws defending champ Serena Williams in the quarters.

Unfortunately, the bigger story was Zvonareva, who imploded even letting off some steam at the chair umpire during a changeover about a bad tape job on a her knee.

“I knew I didn’t have the physical ability for a third set,” the emotional Russian admitted while denying she lost it. “I knew that in the middle of the second set.”

“She’s always like this,” the triumphant Pennetta assessed. “I know her. She can cry on the court, and then next point she fight and she play good tennis.”

Note: Fourteen of the top 16 men have advanced to the Round of 16 setting a new mark at the Open. The previous high was a dozen back in 1992. The 14 also matched a grand slam record set at the 2007 Australian Open. Their record is 28-2 entering Week Two with just No.5 Andy Roddick (John Isner in 5) and Simon (ret. vs Ferrero in 4) eliminated.

Clijsters Comeback Continues With The Ouster of Venus

The comeback continued. Kim Clijsters battled through to a quarterfinal date with No.18 Na Li by getting past No.3 ranked American Venus Williams 6-0, 0-6, 6-4 today at a supportive Ashe Stadium.

The 26 year-old Belgian has looked strong in her return to the game after taking a couple of a years off to marry former Villanova hoops star Brian Lynch and start a family. After decent results in two warmups, she’s shown no ill effects ousting two quality players to reach the final eight.

In Round Two, she got the better of Marion Bartoli bouncing back from a set down to advance in three. A round after dropping only two games, it figured to be tougher versus an old rival. But it was the more agile Clijsters who prevailed against a heavily taped Venus, who’s still battling knee tendinitis. Her run in singles is over but she’s also scheduled to play a fourth round doubles match with young sis Serena, who easily dispatched of Daniela Hantuchova, 6-2, 6-0 advancing to a quarter against either Vera Zvonareva or Flavia Pennetta in tonight’s night session.

The 2005 Open winner came out razor sharp breezing through the first set against a struggling Williams who couldn’t find the range. Meanwhile, Clijsters’ forehand was working helping build an early set lead. It was the first time her opponent had been bageled at the tournament since 1997 when Martina Hingis did it against an unseeded Williams in the final.

Perhaps it was too easy because the second set was a complete role reversal as it was Venus who elevated her game finally ratcheting up the serve and keeping more balls in play. Suddenly, Clijsters had a rough stretch with her forehand going cold and even tossing in a pair of double faults that helped Williams rebound quickly. Before the stunned Ashe knew it, they’d witnessed two ugly, uncompetitive bagel sets in just 49 minutes.

Surely, the deciding set would be better by default. With the crowd urging on both players, it was as each finally kept rallies going giving fans some more entertaining points that included some great hustle from Clijsters. Her speed seemed to get to Williams who missed on a few routine volleys including an overhead. That probably was the difference as she was able to dig in earning an early break which she never relinquished.
A jubilant Kim Clijsters celebrates her victory over Venus Williams to make the U.S. Open quarters in her return.

A jubilant Kim Clijsters celebrates her victory over Venus Williams to make the U.S. Open quarters in her return.

It still wasn’t easy putting away the seven-time slam winner who held her serve the rest of the more competitive 52-minute set, forcing the crowd favorite to serve it out. Showing some nerves, Clijsters missed a couple of shots to drop the first two points eventually falling behind 15-40. But she valiantly fought off two break chances with some solid hitting including an inside out forehand winner.

After drawing an errant backhand, she finally came to match point. With the crowd in a frenzy, she calmly struck a great wide serve which Williams barely got a racket on to clinch victory.

“It was unbelievable. I don’t know what to say,” an excited Clijsters expressed to CBS reporter Mary Joe Fernandez. “It was such a weird match, especially those first two sets. But after I lost the second at 6-0, I said, let’s start over and start a new match.”

The former champ proved she is still a contender. Now, she’ll draw Li, who got through in straights over Italian Francesca Schiavone (26), 6-2, 6-3. In her career, the 27 year-old from China has never made a semi in a major with this matching her best result that came in 2006 at Wimbledon. Clijsters owns a 3-1 head-to-head record taking two of three on hard courts. However, the last two have gone three sets with Li winning two years ago in Miami.

One thing it guarantees is there won’t be an all Williams semi showdown. But just maybe we’ll get a battle of two Open champs with the winner heavily favored to win the title.

“I’ve been working really hard the last seven, eight months and I’m enjoying it,” Clijsters said. “It’s something that’s really important for myself, as long as I can focus on tennis and have fun on the outside as well.”