Tennis

Roddick enjoying Wimbledon revival

Andy Roddick (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)
Andy Roddick has reach the Wimbledon final three times in his career.
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Richard Evans

Richard Evans has covered tennis since the 1960s, reporting on more than 150 Grand Slams. He is author of 15 books, including the official history of the Davis Cup and the unofficial history of the modern game in "Open Tennis." Follow him on Twitter.

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WIMBLEDON, England

Roger Federer showed Italy's Fabio Fognini how to bow as they went on Centre Court — Prince Charles was in the Royal Box, after all — and then proceeded to show him how to play grass-court tennis with the smoothest of 6-1, 6-3, 6-2 victories.

"Obviously, on a grass court, it's hard to get into the match when you're down," said Federer, trying to be as kind as possible to his opponent. "On clay, you get your chances, but on grass, things get a bit complicated."

Very complicated, actually, when you are playing Federer in this setting. He served well, barely missed a ball, and there was not much Fognini could do.

Later, after a protracted rain break, Andy Roddick resumed his match against Britain's Jamie Baker and went through with no real alarms 7-6 (1), 6-4, 7-5. By then, both Federer and Mardy Fish had been talking about him at length, so his ears must have been burning.

Federer was asked about how Roddick handled the feeling of disappointment every time he returns to Wimbledon. The man who won in all three of Roddick's Wimbledon finals, in 2003, 2004 and 2009, was surprised at the question.

"I think it's more of the way you look at it," Federer replied. "I'm surprised you say it's only disappointment for him here. I would think he comes back here with a good vibe and a good feeling.

"Of course, losing in three finals can, maybe, mentally take its toll. I was right there to shake hands with him after our 16-14 fifth set in the third match, so you know it wasn't just all fun. It was great for me but hard for him. I knew it was a tough loss for him, and he deserved to win at least one of the ones he played against me. I hope one day he'll be able to make it here at Wimbledon. Who knows, maybe this next couple of weeks."

Fish finally appeared for a press conference after excusing himself the night before because his stomach was so badly affected by the painkillers had been taking for a sore shoulder. He told us that it had nothing to do with the heart palpitations that had given him such a scare a few weeks before.

Then Fish was asked about Roddick, a former prep school chum who has remained one of his closest friends.

"I just can't imagine how difficult it was for him to come back after 2009," Fish said. "We haven't talked about it much, but I'm sure he thinks about it a lot. But, you know, guys here have so much respect for how he plays the game, how consistent he's been — he won his 600th match last week — and how he goes about not cocky.

"He doesn't walk around the locker room cocky or anything, like he's pissed off that his ranking is low and people don't write good things about him any more. He just goes about his business, and there's a lot of guys in the locker room who respect that."

As for Roddick himself, he was typically direct when asked about his Wimbledon emotions.

"I'm a tennis player. Tennis players play Wimbledon," he said. "I enjoy it. Some of my best memories are from this tournament. Regardless of the fact that I didn't get it, haven't gotten it, it's a place I really enjoy."

Fish, meanwhile, is just happy to be back.

"A week and a half before the French Open, I was thinking, ‘I'm not even close right now.' I was still sleeping with this heart-rate monitor. I hadn't done the procedure yet. The toughest part is just your confidence, just kind of getting your confidence back and trusting everything. But it's gotten better."

Next up, Fish, who is seeded 10th, plays Britain's James Ward, who is ranked 173rd but plays better than that on grass.

Anyone searching for the next bright young things in women's tennis need look no further than Sloane Stephens, Heather Watson and Arantxa Rus. All three won their second-round matches in a manner that suggested this is just the beginning of their journeys.

Stephens, a 19-year-old from Los Angeles, upset the 23rd seed from the Czech Republic, Petra Cetkovska 7-6 (6), 4-6, 6-3 after saving five set points in the first set. Two of them came in the tiebreaker, when Stephens had allowed her opponent to reach 6-4 with two missed forehands. But it was that shot which enabled her to strike back to level at 6-6 and then take it 8-6 as Cetkovska felt the heat and produced two unforced errors.

Despite a dip in the second set, Stephens, who hides her outgoing personality behind a fierce mask of concentration on court, battled back and broke to leave herself serving for the match at 5-3. She went down 30-0 and had to save the possibility of a break-back point by racing onto a drop shot, which she scooped over the net so unexpectedly that Cetkovska was left flat-footed.

Stephens then came up with her best shot, an explosive forehand winner, and a point later the match was hers. She will play Germany's Sabine Lisicki next.

Watson thrilled her growing army of British fans by beating America's Jamie Hampton 6-1, 6-4 with another impressive performance of fluent stroke play from the backcourt.

"I was pleased how I started the match," Watson said. "But I was prepared for her to step up because I know she can play better than she did. Jamie is a great player. She hits the ball very hard, and in the second set she got me more on the back foot."

But never far enough back for Watson to buckle, and the 20-year-old who has an English father and a mother from Papua New Guinea, was able to enjoy what she described as "an explosion of happiness, relief that all the tension's gone."

Providing they both continue to improve, Stephens and Watson will become wonderful flag bearers for the women's game because of their happy, outgoing personalities.

Rus, too, will be a big asset. The 21-year-old from the Netherlands caused the biggest upset of the day by defeating the reigning US Open champion Sam Stosur 6-2, 0-6, 6-4 — creating more grief for Australian tennis, which lost all its male players in the first round.

Stosur, who has never gotten past the third round here in 10 attempts, was shocked at the quick turnaround in fortunes after dominating the second set.

"After you win a set 6-0 you think you definitely have the momentum, then all of a sudden you're quickly down in the third. Tennis can always go like that."

Stosur made no excuses for the Australian showing at this year's Wimbledon.

"It's a pretty woeful performance by all of us, but it's not through lack of trying," she said. "But I don't think you have to say 'Oh my God we have to change everything'. There's definitely players coming up."

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