Roddick survives grueling match againstCroatian Ljubicic
Posted on Sat, Aug. 30, 2003
Roddick survives grueling match against Croatian Ljubicic
By MICHELLE KAUFMAN
Andy Roddick reacts after winning a point against Ivan Ljubicic at the U.S. Open, Friday, Aug. 29, 2003, in New York.
NEW YORK - (KRT) - The clock had just struck midnight on a foggy, humid Friday night, and Andy Roddick officially turned 21, but the last thing on his mind was cooling off with a legal libation. He had a much more pressing matter across the court at Arthur Ashe Stadium - a fearless Croatian named Ivan Ljubicic who almost single-handedly beat the U.S. Davis Cup team in February and apparently had plans to spoil Roddick's birthday, too.
Ljubicic, ranked No. 43, fled war-torn Bosnia with his family at age 13, crawling under barbed wire and riding a bus for 48 hours, so he certainly wasn't going to be intimidated by a 20-year-old American in a baseball cap, even if that American is the hottest thing in tennis this summer. Ljubicic bounced Americans James Blake and Taylor Dent from the last two Grand Slams, and he tried his best to add Roddick to the list.
Fourth-seeded Roddick fought back after losing the second set - and his concentration - in a tiebreaker and pulled out the thrilling match, 6-3, 6-7 (4-7), 6-3, 7-6 (10-8). Roddick served at second-match point at 12:09 a.m., and Ljubicic's overhand lob sailed over Roddick's head.
``I think I deserve a beer after that one,'' Roddick said, and the crowd sang him Happy Birthday as organizers brought a cake onto the court.
``It's brutal out here. I let him in the second set, and he started playing great tennis.''
Ljubicic complained afterward about Roddick's etiquette.
``Every single player said to me kick his butt,'' Ljubicic said. ``Maybe this is good for the game. For sure we need some interesting guys, but you can be interesting in a positive way.''
Roddick entered the match on a 21-1 hardcourt tear and was 31-2 since hooking up with coach Brad Gilbert. Many experts had already penciled the Boca Raton resident and Andre Agassi into the finals. Pete Sampras and Michael Chang retired in the opening days of the U.S. Open, the perfect opportunity for Roddick to prove he is worthy of the title ``Next Great American.''
But every time a reporter asked him about being a favorite at this Open, he reminded them that he had only won a first round match and had a long way to go. Roddick led Ljubicic 3-1 in the four matches they had played, but he was taking nothing for granted.
``I have Ljubicic next, and he can beat a lot of good players,'' Roddick said after advancing to the second round. ``He serves humongous.''
Everyone knows about Roddick's serve. He tied a world record with a 149 mph serve this season, but Ljubicic's service game is hardly chopped liver. Roddick's positioning on returns - 10 feet behind the baseline - was evidence of his respect for his opponent. Each finished the match with 22 aces apiece.
Roddick won the first set fairly easily, punctuating it with a 137 mph ace on the final point. Ljubicic stepped it up in the second set, breaking Roddick in the sixth game, and took a commanding 5-1 lead in the tiebreak when Roddick hit a backhand wide. In the fourth-set tiebreaker, Roddick came back from 5-2 down to win.
Roddick plays Flavio Saretta of Brazil in the third round. Saretta beat Miami resident Nicolas Lapentti, a native of Ecuador, 6-2, 6-4, 6-0.
The Roddick match started a few minutes later than expected because Tamarine Tanasugarn of Thailand took 1 hour, 12 minutes to pull off a 6-2, 6-4 upset over No. 9 seed Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia. Before Friday, Tanasugarn's U.S. Open claim to fame was that she played and won the first-ever match on Arthur Ashe Stadium, a 1997 first-round victory against Chanda Rubin.
She improved to 2-0 on the marquee court Friday and endeared herself to the audience after she mistakenly thought she won at 5-3 in the second set and began celebrating prematurely. When she realized there was at least one more game to be played, she shrugged sheepishly and kept on playing. She would get another chance to show her joy.
``I am very, very embarrassed right now,'' Tanasugarn said at the post-match press conference. ``I was really laughing about it myself, too. But I thought, `If I win the match, I'm gonna jump more.'''
Hantuchova, who also lost in the second round at the French Open and Wimbledon, admitted her confidence is shaken.
``Sometimes it can be really frustrating,'' she said. ``I have lost to players that I shouldn't. Most of the time, it was because I was not playing well, and I beat myself. So, your confidence gets low.''