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.

Del Potro Ends Cilic’s Run

In his first grand slam quarterfinal, Marin Cilic gave it his best but ultimately it was the higher ranked Juan Martin Del Potro who proved too much. The 20 year-old sixth seeded Argentine continued to ride the wave, rallying from a set and break down to dispatch the No.16 Croat 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 at Ashe Stadium this afternoon in Flushing.

Del Potro advanced to his first ever U.S. Open semifinal improving on last year’s quarter result. Now, he’ll await the winner between Rafael Nadal and Fernando Gonzalez in tonight’s final quarter.

“It’s so beautiful playing in front of this crowd,” an excited Del Potro said acknowledging the fun atmosphere. “I’m so happy it happened this way.”

In the early going, Cilic dealt better with windy conditions looking intent on pulling another upset. Fresh off his straight set destruction of Andy Murray, he didn’t look out of place. Carrying momentum from that big win, the lanky 20 year-old who will move up in the rankings used the same powerful serve and huge forehand to give the favorite fits.

If one of the game’s best returners couldn’t get a read on it, Del Potro certainly struggled with Cilic’s serve making for a tough opening set that saw the underdog hitting out taking it to one of the tour’s best hardcourt players. In the fifth game, he ran into trouble when after fighting off two break points, the Argentine couldn’t save a third thanks in large part to some great hustle from his opponent who made a running forehand pass to earn a 3-2 lead.

Continuing to get in a high percentage of first serves, Cilic backed it up with big forehands outplaying Del Potro. Though he put up a fight in the 10th game saving one set point due to a nice lob, the Argentine couldn’t get back on serve with a forced miss allowing a pumped up Croat to close the set.

It continued to look dicey early in the second set when following a quick hold, Cilic broke for 2-0. But Del Potro stayed in it by climbing out of a Love-30 hole in the fifth game. Upping the tempo, he took the next four points holding for 2-3.

Apparently, he was just getting warmed up. Indeed, Del Potro’s memory bank was still fresh with ESPN analyst Darren Cahill noting that in their only head-to-head meeting in a fourth round Australian Open match this year, he rallied from a similar deficit winning in four sets.

More focused, Del Potro started to turn the tables hitting with more pace including a big forehand that supplied several of his 27 winners. Two less than his opponent whose signature shot suddenly went off spraying three wild forehands in the sixth game to square the set at three apiece.

With renewed confidence, Del Potro broke again en route to running off the final five games. But before he leveled the match, Cilic made things interesting saving two set points with big backhands, eventually earning a chance of his own to get back on serve. Facing the pressure, Del Potro calmly served an ace up the tee, then took the next pair of points with a service winner drawing him even at a set apiece.

Could Cilic respond? The definitive answer was no as he was broken a third consecutive time in the opening game of the third set. Following an easy hold, Del Potro had taken seven consecutive games before a Cilic love hold finally ended it.

Unfortunately, he couldn’t keep it going dropping serve again two games later falling behind 1-4 due to Del Potro taking the last four points including a Cilic netted forehand.

Following a Cilic hold, the rejuvenant Del Potro easily served the set out at love clinching it on a Cilic backhand into the net. By that point, the difference was apparent with the more polished player dealing with over 20 mph winds better by keeping balls in while his opponent cracked committing 37 unforced errors to Del Potro’s 20.

“I was thinking, every point, do the same, try to put the ball in the court,” Del Potro pointed out after improving to 16-1 since a second round Wimbledon exit to Lleyton Hewitt with the only other defeat coming to the departed Murray who got him at Montreal.

“When you fight that way to the final point, you have many chances and that’s what happened today.”

Though five days separate their birthdays later this month, it’s the older Del Potro who showed his mettle, with his consistency proving too much for Cilic to overcome with the Croat finishing with 29 more miscues (53-24).

“He was not missing,” explained Cilic while also noting the difference in conditions as well as why he was more successful the other day.

“Andy [Murray], he doesn’t have as much power as Del Potro has,” Cilic said. “And it was a little bit hotter that day and the ball was going through the court more and jumping much more.”

With a first Open semi in sight, Del Potro used some great defense to save game point, eventually converting another break for 1-0 in set four. It only worsened for Cilic who was broken a sixth time thanks to more brilliant shotmaking from Del Potro, who this time came up with a perfect running backhand topspin lob delighting the crowd and himself.

Suspense all but ended when he broke for 5-0 making it 16 of the last 18 games before Cilic earned one last break so he wouldn’t get bageled. The only problem was it was his first since early in the second when he was still in control. Now, it had come way too late.

Having solved Cilic’s serve by stepping in on seconds, Del Potro fittingly closed it by making it a perfect eight for eight on break opportunities with a wide Cilic forehand insuring his place into the final four. He took 17 of the last 20 games.

Can he take it one step further and make his first ever slam final?

“I cannot start the match like today,” Del Potro accurately stated. “I was thinking about other things, and the weather was bad. But it was bad for both players. I just need to be in focus in the beginning of the match until the last point and play my game.”

We won’t know till Super Saturday.

Federer Hangs Tough Over Soderling

For two sets, it wasn’t a contest. Roger Federer was making quick work of Robin Soderling, looking like a lock for a grand slam record 22nd straight semifinal.

Perhaps it came too easy because his U.S. Open quarterfinal match against the No.12 seeded Soderling completely changed, suddenly becoming a whole lot more interesting with the underdog trying to pull off the impossible. Comeback from two sets behind against Federer at a slam, who brought a perfect 147-0 record under such circumstances.

Despite a valiant effort from a player he beat in Paris to complete the career grand slam and eliminated in a close three sets on his way to winning a record 15th major at Wimbledon, the five-time reigning Open champ earned No.22- hanging tough for a four set win over Soderling, 6-0, 6-3, 6-7 (6), 7-6 (6) before a pumped up Ashe Stadium in Flushing.

“It was so close towards the end. It’s a great relief to come through, because Robin started playing better and better as the match went on,” a relieved Federer told ESPN’s Darren Cahill after escaping. “I knew he’d be tough, but the beginning was way too easy. He found his way into the match.”

Somehow after looking completely out of it, Soderling had fought back even earning set point to level the match. But the determined champion found his way out of trouble, winning the final three points to setup a semi rematch from last year versus a familiar foe Novak Djokovic, who got out of trouble earlier in the day prevailing in four sets over Fernando Verdasco.

“Yeah, I mean, look, we’ll see how it goes against Djokovic, I guess,” Federer said while discussing the style differences between his next opponent and Soderling. “It was good that I had maybe a bit of a test, but it’s not something I’m really looking for. The hoped I could close him out in three. I should have.”

“In the end, I’m lucky to be through in four.”

Following Caroline Wozniacki ending Melanie Oudin’s run, Federer was all business against what he termed a ‘dangerous opponent‘ in a press conference yesterday. In the opening pair of sets, that wasn’t the case with the Swiss world No.1 coming out of the gate so sharp that he even bageled Soderling.

Things didn’t get much better for the 25 year-old French Open runner-up as he couldn’t find an answer for Federer’s bread and butter forehand which produced plenty of a match best 64 winners. If only it were that simple. There’s also his movement which during sets one and two made it seem like he was out for a walk in the park.

Remarkably, Soderling was making better than 70 percent first serves but still found himself in a huge hole with an opportunistic Federer breaking him four times. He took full advantage of a weak second serve, taking firm control to jump out to a commanding two set lead.

Could anything stop him?

“For sure, I feel like I have a chance every time I play against him, even though it’s pretty small,” Soderling said after falling to 0-12 career versus Federer. “He always plays well, it feels like.”

The first game of the third set looked like it would be a similar script with Federer winning the first three points on Soderling’s serve but instead of going away, the Swede hung tough saving every single one with large serves and even bigger hitting which helped turn the match.

“You see how quickly tennis can change around if you don’t take those. I think he did well to hang in there, because it wasn’t easy after what he had to go through in the first two sets,” Federer duly noted.

“So I have to give him a lot of credit for hanging there and playing so well in the end.”

Suddenly, the switch went on. New York fans started to see why the gifted player is having a breakout year on the cusp of the top 10. Playing the same style that dethroned Rafael Nadal in Roland Garros, Soderling traded shot for shot with the game’s best making for much more compelling action. He even started getting the better of the rallies unleashing a lethal forehand which scored a good chunk of his 36 winners.

When he wasn’t hitting a flat out winner, it was mostly due to the speed of his world class opponent who did plenty of scrambling to stay in points, even having to fight off break chances to keep the third set on serve.

As the set wore on, a determined Soderling kept holding as if to say,’I’m not going away,’ gaining plenty of support from a boisterous New York crowd that wanted more tennis. If the ladies’ quarter disappointed with Oudin running out of steam against a focused Wozniacki who made her first slam semifinal, they sure got their money’s worth.

Fittingly, the well played set needed a tiebreak. At that point, ESPN commentator Patrick McEnroe wondered if Soderling’s serve would suddenly go off. Early on, he looked prophetic with the Swede committing a couple of bad miscues to fall behind 0-4 making it feel over. But to his credit, he never quit stealing the next point on Federer’s serve to get a mini-break back.

Amazingly, against one of the best tiebreaker players ever, Soderling got back even at five apiece thanks to some enormous shots including a wicked forehand up the line. After a big serve, he had set point. However, Federer saved it in remarkable fashion playing great defense before running down a drop volley to come up with a slice forehand pass yelling, “Come on.

Soderling didn’t let it slip taking the next point before forcing a long Federer miss to claim the set, giving cheering fans another set.

“It’s tough to play worse than I did in the first two sets. It could only get better,” Soderling pointed out. “I think I was putting a lot of pressure on him from the start of the third set.”

The fourth set would be even better. With Federer serving first, he figured to have an edge because he could then put all the pressure on Soderling, who had to know one slip up and the comeback bid would be all for naught.

After digging out of a Love-30 game early to hold, the Swiss Maestro turned up the heat, ratcheting up his serve increasing the ace count. He took a page from the 50 he needed to edge Andy Roddick at Wimbledon. In the set, whenever he needed one, he got it cracking at least eight of 28 to keep holding.

“For me, it’s very tough to read his serve, and I was very impressed about the way he served during the circumstances,” praised Soderling. “It was very, very windy.”

For his part, Soderling remained undeterred doing his best to emulate Federer. In one game late in the chess match, he served three consecutive aces going as big as possible even catching the edge out wide to win a challenge.

When he didn’t hit them, he was outslugging Federer with tremendous power from both sides of the racket striking lines. For as hopeless as it looked early with the first two sets taking less than an hour, suddenly Soderling was in the zone giving the crowd plenty of hope for a fifth set. At one point, a fan screamed:

Come on Robin. We want a fifth set.

He sure tried. As each guy stepped up and held, there was no doubt where the fourth was headed. And a Soderling service winner gave them another breaker.

Unlike the first one, neither player budged. Though Soderling got a couple of great looks at Federer second serves. But his go for broke return forehands sailed just wide. Had one connected, who knows? They might still be playing.

When Soderling kept his cool for 6-5, it was suddenly set point with a chance to actually send it the distance. Over an hour before, who ever would’ve believed it? Unfortunately, a more desperate Federer wasn’t so willing saving it with a big serve and then getting a little help from Soderling, who misfired a backhand when he had it lined up.

Just like that, it was match point. With the crowd hoping for more tennis, it was Soderling who finally gave in missing a forehand wide to which an excited Federer pumped his fist and let out a scream of relief.

He had avoided the upset. It sure got dicey. But when push came to shove, the great champion again showed why he is moving a step closer to matching Bill Tilden’s once thought unbreakable Open record of six straight titles back in the 1920’s.

Federer already owns one ridiculous record making 22 straight semi appearances at the slams.

“Not what I aimed for, that’s for sure,” the clever champ responded. “Probably one of the greatest records for me, personally, in my career. Glad it keeps going.”

They don’t call him the King of Queens for nothing.