The last time Andy Roddick played on Louis Armstrong stadium, it was way back in 2002 when, as a young rising star, he defeated Juan Ignacio Chela in a memorable match that saw the visor-clad (yep, it was that incarnation) Roddick high-five fans after winning a lengthy point. Roddick had not stepped foot on Armstrong since then but it took a wash-out earlier in the week to force USTA officials to place Roddick, who has played every match at the U.S. Open on Arthur Ashe Stadium since that Chela match in ’02, out on Armstrong against No. 5 seed David Ferrer.
Roddick started the match on Armstrong but ended it two days – and two courts later – with a four set win over Ferrer that included bubbles and another set of high fives for a group of lucky fans.
Roddick returned to Louis Armstrong today with a 3-0 early lead over Ferrer in the first set. But after a few games, play was stopped when both players noticed hairline cracks and tiny water bubbles pushing through the court surface. Officials tried to repair the area while the players were taken off court, but once Roddick stepped back onto Armstrong, he took one look at the affected area and was not impressed, telling Tournament Director Brian Earley that he was “baffled” he was brought back onto the court. Roddick stormed off and back into the bowels of Ashe Stadium where he was very vocal in telling officials “we just want to play”. Finally Roddick and Ferrer made their way to Court 13 leaving fans scrambling to find seats and ESPN to place cameras on court.
Roddick used his frustration to race through the first two sets before he came back down to earth while Ferrer, who hit 20 unforced errors, cleaned up his game to break Roddick in the first game of the third set which he then took 6-3. For a while in the fourth set, it looked like the match would go the distance as Ferrer broke to go up 3-1 and then had Roddick at 0-40 to go up a possible 4-1. But Roddick held then broke to square things at 3-3. Roddick then hit a massive down the line forehand to break Ferrer again before he served out the match 6-3, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 to the delight of the 500 plus spectators on hand.
Roddick now faces Rafael Nadal and though Roddick is an underdog in that matchup, he wasn’t expected to get through Ferrer so who knows what surprises he might have left. Roddick has certainly earned a bunch of criticism, some of it deserved, over recent behavior and his lack of good results but I felt today was a full circle moment for Roddick who has shoulder the praise and burden of being America’s best tennis player for over ten years now. Who knows what the final years of Roddick’s career will bring but like today, I expect it will be filled with a few more moments of drama, surprises and high fives all around.