By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 7, 2009
Since the Wimbledon championship on July 5, rising American tennis star Sam Querrey has reached the finals of two tournaments and won another.
In the same four-week span, top-ranked American Andy Roddick had played just 55 minutes of competitive tennis.
So it was understandable, when the big-serving pair met Thursday at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic, that Querrey was the sharper player.
But on this night, as so often in life, experience compensated for any momentary shortcoming.
After bringing the crowd of nearly 7,000 at William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center to a hush by getting broken in two of his first three service games, Roddick rallied, 7-6 (7-4), 6-4, to earn a spot in Friday's quarterfinals.
He'll face another big server, Ivo Karlovic of Croatia, who advanced earlier by halting the charmed progression of two-time NCAA champion Somdev Devvarman, 7-5, 6-1.
Roddick's victory over the 6-foot-6 Querrey, whose potent serve and forehand mirror his own, was the 500th of his professional career. Among active men's players, only three have won more matches: Roger Federer (657), Carlos Moya (573) and Lleyton Hewitt (511).
At 26, Roddick is the youngest of that elite bunch. And he declared himself humbled by the number and the company.
"It's a nice validation of maybe the consistency I've been able to have," Roddick said. "And I think I got there with enough time to add to it significantly."
But on another level, it represented something more: That Roddick has turned the page on the five-set loss to Federer, in which he came so close to the second major title he has coveted since winning the 2003 U.S. Open.
He is hardly back to the form he was one month ago. Roddick served just three aces in the match while double-faulting six times. But when a serve went awry or a volley found the net, Roddick did not waste time berating himself, as he often did as a younger player.
He kept his mind on the task at hand and stuck to his game plan -- moving Querrey around the court to better exploit his lack of mobility, varying the pace of his stroke to keep his opponent from getting into a groove, and respecting Querrey's mighty forehand.
As a result, the momentum shifted Roddick's way after he broke Querrey a second time in the opening set.
"I've been able to get over stuff a little faster on court and stay the course," Roddick explained, more pleased with his resolve than with any particular stroke. "When I broke back a second time, I said, 'This is my set to win now.' "
Earlier Thursday, Juan Martín del Potro, the tournament's defending champion, survived a spirited challenge from Hewitt before advancing, 4-6, 6-3. 7-6 (7-2).
But the Aussie didn't go lightly.
Serving at 3-5 in the third set, Hewitt fought off successive match points with an ace and some smartly placed groundstrokes, yanking the lanky Argentine from one corner of the court to the other.
With a chance to serve out the set, del Potro came unglued, steering what should have been straightforward shots into the net or well beyond the sidelines.
But he rallied in the tiebreak, blasting two aces and getting the first mini-break with a backhand winner down the line.
Del Potro will face Sweden's Robin Soderling, who beat Marc Gicquel of France, 7-5, 5-7, 6-3, in the quarterfinals.
Tommy Haas, 31, was first to advance to the final 16 Thursday, shaking off a mental lapse against Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain to prevail, 7-5, 2-6, 6-1.
He'll face Fernando Gónzalez of Chile, who breezed past American Wayne Odesnik, 6-2, 6-4.
Ferrero broke Haas to open the match and had a set point at 5-4. But Haas charged the net for a winning volley to force deuce, break back and serve out the set, closing with a forehand cross-court winner that should have made him feel invincible.
But Ferrero stormed back to get an early break in the second set. After getting broken a second time, Haas could barely hide his self-loathing, kicking at the court in disgust.
"When you're down two breaks to a top player like that, it's hard to keep focused," Haas said, asked about the mental wanderlust that followed. "At some point you just start thinking about the third set."
With the match level at one set apiece, Haas made quick work of the final set, racing to a 5-0 lead before Ferrero mustered a game.
It was significant victory for Haas, whose career has been halted by injury more times than he can count.
He has lost just three times in his last 20 matches -- two of those to the game's greatest player, Federer, who edged him in five sets at the French Open in June and beat him in the semifinals of Wimbledon in July.
The awareness that his career is coming to an end, he says, is a reason to savor each moment rather than despair.
"You just appreciate it -- especially with injuries," Haas said. "So I try to do my best and enjoy these moments going onto the stadium courts. I'm living my dream, playing the sport I love for quite some time."
Legg Mason Note: Two dozen Washington area youngsters showed off the skills they have learned this summer through the U.S. Tennis Association's Quick Start program, which teaches basic skills of the sport on smaller courts, with bigger tennis balls and smaller racket frames.
Washington Mayor Adrian M. Fenty was on hand, along with several USTA officials, to announce that the program will be expanded from three pilot programs to 11 after-school programs throughout the city.