Roddick, del Potro Advance to Legg Mason Final

Action from the William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center in Rock Creek Park.
By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 9, 2009

When John Isner met Andy Roddick in the final of the Legg Mason Tennis Classic two years ago, he was a bit awed by the stage, the opponent and the stakes, having graduated from Georgia and turned pro just a few weeks earlier.

In Saturday's reprise of the all-American matchup, coming in the tournament's semifinal round, Isner played with the abandon of an athlete who was every bit Roddick's equal.

The result was some riveting tennis, with Roddick, the tournament's three-time champion and chief box-office attraction, defeating his young challenger, 6-7 (7-3), 6-2, 7-5, to advance to Sunday's championship.

He'll face the tournament's defending champion, Juan Martín del Potro, in a battle of the world's fifth and sixth-ranked players.

Del Potro, 20, earned his spot in the finals by defeating Fernando González of Chile, 7-6 (7-2), 6-3, in a listlessly played match earlier in the day, with both complaining afterward that the heat and humidity prevented them from putting their best tennis on display.

But the caliber of the Roddick-Isner match more than compensated.

"John made me play my best tennis tonight," Roddick said. "Anything else wasn't going to get it done."

The top-seeded Roddick, 26, playing in his first tournament since Wimbledon, was the fresher player at the outset, having reached Saturday's semifinals as a result of three consecutive straight-sets victories.

As an unseeded player, Isner, 24, wasn't afforded a first-round bye and, as a result, needed four victories (and 10 sets of tennis, compared with Roddick's six) to reach the final four.

But the competitive difference between them was imperceptible in the first set, with the 6-foot-9 Isner and 6-2 Roddick taking turns blasting serves past each other at upward of 130 mph. Neither could break the other, and a tiebreak was needed to settle the deadlock.

No player boasts a better winning percentage in tiebreaks this season than Roddick (82.8). But Isner got the upper hand on this night, capitalizing on two forehand errors by Roddick to claim the opening set.

Roddick roared back in the second set, breaking Isner in the first game with a backhand passing shot down the line -- one of the welcome additions to his quiver since he started working with coach Larry Stefanki in December.

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