Roddick rarity: five-set victory

The second seed wins his first five-set match in six tries while Marat Safin falls.

Associated Press
Published June 25, 2005

WIMBLEDON, England - The light was fading, the wind was swirling and Andy Roddick was pacing behind the Centre Court baseline before the start of the fifth set, all too aware he had lost his past five matches of that length.

Determined to end that drought, he decided a change in tactics was in order. He began charging the net more, and thanks in part to one picture-perfect diving volley, the second-seeded Roddick pulled out a 7-5, 6-3, 6-7 (7-3), 4-6, 6-3 victory over Daniele Bracciali on Friday to reach the third round at Wimbledon.

"I wanted to prove something out there today, for sure. There was definitely a chip on my shoulder," Roddick said. "It was big to get through. It would have been a devastating loss."

Australian Open champion Marat Safin did taste defeat Friday, but he didn't sound all that disappointed at being on the wrong end of a 6-4, 7-6 (7-4), 6-3 score against No. 26 Feliciano Lopez of Spain in a third-round match.

"I'm satisfied. I found my game on grass. I have nothing to complain about," said Safin, who last year vowed to quit trying to succeed on the surface after a first-round exit at the All England Club.

Lopez, into Wimbledon's round of 16 for the third time in four years, next faces 2004 semifinalist Mario Ancic. Lleyton Hewitt, the 2002 champion, will play No. 24 Taylor Dent of the United States in the fourth round. Hewitt beat Justin Gimelstob 7-6 (7-5), 6-4, 7-5, and Dent was a 6-3, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3 winner over Tomas Berdych, the Czech who upset Roger Federer at the Athens Olympics.

Federer, the two-time defending Wimbledon champion, and No. 1 Lindsay Davenport were among the players whose matches didn't start because of rain. Before the tournament's first patch of bad weather, No. 3 Amelie Mauresmo beat Shenay Perry of the United States 6-0, 6-2, and four Russians made the round of 16: U.S. Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, French Open champion Anastasia Myskina, two-time major finalist Elena Dementieva and No. 13 Elena Likhovtseva.

Roddick's match was suspended by darkness Thursday night, right after the third set, which angered Bracciali. It was halted for 33 minutes Friday by rain, right after the 120th-ranked Italian conjured four brilliant returns on serves up to 135 mph to break at love for a 4-3 edge in the fourth set.

It was about then that Roddick began having flashbacks to the French Open. There, too, he won the first two sets against a low-ranked opponent in the second round before letting the lead vanish. Roddick wound up losing to Jose Acasuso in five sets in Paris.

"I thought about it," the American said. "I thought about how to avoid it."

So he opted to attack more. Roddick won 13 of 15 serve-and-volley points and 28 points at the net overall.

"I wasn't surprised," Bracciali said, "because I knew he had to change something."

The match turned in Roddick's favor in the sixth game of the final set, when he smacked a forehand he thought was a clean winner. It was called out. Roddick hopped in place and appeared ready to launch into a tirade but instead put his arm in his mouth and bit down, holding it all in.

A moment later, Roddick hit a backhand passing shot down the line, an addition to his repertoire over the past two years, to earn two break points, then converted the second to lead 4-2.

In the next game, Roddick double faulted to fall behind 15-30; then came the shot of the match. Bracciali hit what looked to be a just-right passing shot destined to set up a chance to break right back. But Roddick changed directions, left his feet, stretched to his right and, parallel to the ground, extended for a volley to end the point.

"That dive," Bracciali said admiringly, pausing. "Incredible."

It was Roddick's first victory in a five-setter since the 2003 U.S. Open semifinals, when he overcame match point against David Nalbandian en route to his first Grand Slam title.

Roddick would love to collect No. 2 next weekend and figures that will entail more aggressive play. Roddick freely admits he's more comfortable bashing from the baseline than moving forward but, if necessary, he's prepared to make his way to the net.

"I get up there sometimes, but most of the time it's to shake hands," he said with a smile. "I was able to make myself do it. ... It's important to at least have that option."

Then again, the choice of tactics wouldn't have been an issue if Roddick had closed the match in three sets a day earlier.

Bracciali thought there was enough light to continue Thursday, perhaps for another 30 or 40 minutes, and didn't like it that Roddick quickly went over to gather his things after the tiebreaker. There was some discussion with the chair umpire, and Bracciali said Roddick cursed.

"I said a bad word. I don't know if it was to Bracciali. I was walking off, and he was throwing a fit," Roddick said, adding that the chair umpire announced play was suspended. "Try returning a 135 mph serve when you can kind of see the ball. It's not the easiest thing. I don't think there's anything bad about walking off a dark tennis court because you can't see and you can't play."

Heeding advice from 1996 men's champion Richard Krajicek, Dementieva helped Russian women finish 4-0 for the day.

The Russians won all but two of the six third-round matches. Dementieva was brimming with newfound confidence after she received serving tips from Krajicek.

The Dutchman, armed with one of the most dominating serves in tennis, upset Pete Sampras at Wimbledon nine years ago, then beat MaliVai Washington in the final. Friday, Dementieva defeated Washington's sister, Mashona, 7-5, 6-1.

Dementieva, a top-10 player even though her serve rivals the worst on the women's tour, said Krajicek gave her lessons the past two weeks.

"He helped me a lot with my serve," said Dementieva, seeded sixth. "I was very pleased that he was working with me, because I think he had the best serve on the tour. You know, it looks so simple when he does it."

Seven Russian women made the final 32, most in Wimbledon history. All remain in contention, including defending champion Maria Sharapova and Friday's winners: Dementieva, U.S. Open champion Kuznetsova, French Open semifinalist Likhovtseva and 2004 Roland Garros winner Myskina.

No. 5-seeded Kuznetsova overcame set point in the opening set and edged Nicole Vaidisova 7-5, 6-7 (7-5), 6-2. No. 13 Likhovtseva needed a comeback to beat Silvia Farina Elia 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.

But the day's most dramatic match involved Myskina, who failed to convert two match points in the second set, fell behind 5-1 in the third, squandered 24 of 33 break-point chances and still won.

Seeded ninth despite a prolonged slump, Myskina beat Jelena Jankovic 6-0, 5-7, 10-8.