Juan Martin del Potro Beats Andy Roddick for Legg Mason Title

Action from the William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center in Rock Creek Park.
By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 10, 2009

It was an hour and 20 minutes into Washington's Legg Mason Tennis Classic, and Andy Roddick had just reclaimed the momentum after a lapse earlier in the second set.

As the American blasted yet another serve past his opponent, Juan Martín del Potro, a lone voice screamed out from a capacity crowd that had been lulled into a stupor by the sweltering heat: "Let's GO, Andy! It's HOT!"

Roddick fell short in his ability to close the match in short order. And more than an hour later, he fell short in his ability to close it at all.

In the end, it was del Potro, the 6-foot-6 Argentine and the tournament's defending champion, who best-handled Washington's most miserable afternoon of the summer, outlasting the oppressive humidity, 97-degree temperature and Roddick's 21 aces to prevail, 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (8-6).

According to the sport's current rankings, del Potro's victory qualifies as a mild upset, with the Argentine ranked sixth in the world this week, and Roddick fifth.

But Roddick, a three-time Legg Mason champion, strode onto the Stadium Court at William H.G. Fitzgerald Tennis Center as a heavy crowd favorite. And through the opening set, which Roddick romped through in 37 minutes, he seemed fully in charge, breaking del Potro in the sixth game and looking feisty doing so.

But as the 2-hour 30-minute match ground on, del Potro ramped up his aggression, as if determined to bring the contest to an end regardless of the outcome.

Of his 19 aces in the match, del Potro unleashed 12 in the third set -- five of those in the decisive tiebreak.

"I think he might have been feeling it more than I did," Roddick said of his opponent and the debilitating heat. "He didn't want to get into long points. He was kind of going for broke. He was rolling the dice, and he hit Yahtzee a couple of times."

Roddick won the statistical battle in several categories, finishing with more aces, a higher percentage of first serves (68 for Roddick; 55 for del Potro) and fewer unforced errors (20, to the Argentine's 32).

But this match, deadlocked at one set after nearly 89 minutes of play, was settled by high-risk tactics. And del Potro didn't hesitate to put his massive forehand and booming serve to the test.

"For me, it was very difficult to play against him," del Potro said afterward. "I beat him, but the difference was so close."

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