No flaws on Federer
Roger had to be perfect against Roddick -- and he was
Posted: Thursday September 6, 2007 2:02AM; Updated: Thursday September 6, 2007 9:49AM
NEW YORK -- The boldface names arrived shortly before the sun dropped down over Flushing Meadows.
First, there was the well-coiffed Martha Stewart, who posed politely for photographers before being shuttled though the President's Gate of Arthur Ashe Stadium. Next came fellow moguls Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David, whose couture of an untucked shirt and blue sneakers contrasted nicely with the suit-and-tie set. It was Wednesday night at Flushing Meadow but the buzz around the grounds was akin to a final. Pop culture (Tony Bennett, Judd Hirsch, Grace Jones, Regis Philbin) mixed with tennis royalty (Andre Agassi, Boris Becker and Ilie Nastase) among the sold-out crowd of 23,733.
When the night finally ended at 12:13 a.m., the results were not unexpected. Roger Federer and Venus Williams had moved on, but both Andy Roddick and Jelena Jankovic earned respect for the battle.
"I'm not walking off with any questions in my head this time," Roddick said. "I'm not walking with my head down. I played my ass off out there tonight. I played the right way."
No arguments here. Federer beat Roddick for the 14th time in 15 career matches but he was forced to play his best tennis in a 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4), 6-2 win. There were no breaks of serve in the first two sets. "I thought it was a very high-standard match," Federer said. "I was very pleased with my performance. I thought actually Andy also played very well."
Roddick looked to unsettle Federer early and played aggressive tennis from the first ball. He unleashed big cuts with his forehand, charged to net when the opportunity presented itself and served huge. "He needs a lot of 142's [mph] and 147's on the first serve and a lot of 117s on the second," said Agassi, who served as a guest commentator on USA's Network's coverage. "Engage the primary weapon."
The primary weapon was engaged in the first set. Roddick won 88 percent of his first serves and still lost the opening set. The key moment came in the tiebreak with Federer leading 5-4. The Swiss hit a crackling cross-court backhand past the American for a mini-break. Two points later, Federer nailed a 122 mph ace down the middle to win the set.
"There was so much good serving that it's hard to say it was great, great tennis," Federer said. "But I thought it was a high level. You couldn't allow yourself to make any easy mistakes because they would be costly."
Federer saved a break point in the second set trailing 3-4 when Roddick sailed a backhand long. It came at the same time Williams was holding her news conference following a pulsating three-set win over Jankovic. "Andy, I hope he can figure it out," said Venus.
Alas, he came close, but nobody seems to figure out Federer at this tournament. He played a strong tiebreak and ended the second set with a brisk serve down the middle that Roddick netted. "Down two sets to love against Fed," said Agassi, "is nearly a death sentence."
Agassi knows. Federer broke Roddick in the sixth game of the third set and cruised from there. The final point came when Roddick hit a backhand into the net. The American was off the court about 60 seconds later, but acknowledged the crowd by stopping and waving. That left Federer to thank Agassi, the crowd, and offer a scouting report against his semifinal opponent, Nikolay Davydenko. "I got a pretty good record against him," he said. "Never lost."
Moments before Federer headed onto the Ashe Stadium court more than two hours earlier, he spoke with USA Network in a corridor just off the court. He had a slight smile on his face when after being reminded of his one-sided record against Roddick. "Good to have the record on my side," he said. "New night, new match, though."
New night, same Federer. The star of stars moves on.
First, props to Roddick for conducting a professional news conference despite the fact he was seething afterward. Asked if he still thought he could beat Federer, Roddick didn't blink. "If I didn't, I wouldn't be out here," he said... Federer is 9-0 against Davydenko... The always cheerful Jankovic was gracious in her post-match news conference but could not hide her disappointment as she walked off the court. "I want to kill myself," said Jankovic, as she walked into the women's locker room... Venus, on whether she takes Henin beating her younger sister personally: "I wasn't happy with the result at all, to say the very least. I was sad that Serena lost because I didn't like to see her so upset. I definitely have to try to win for Williams." ... Federer won 81 percent of his first serves and out-aced Roddick, 15-14... Agassi was exceptional as an analyst. He offered informative and thoughtful commentary. There's no doubt he could be a broadcasting star but don't expect him to quit the day job as husband, parent and budding real estate mogul.