US Open 2011: Nadal, Murray & Roddick overcome the rain
British No1 finally reaches quarter-finals after defeating Donald Young of America in straight sets
For Day 11 at Flushing Meadows, ticket holders might have expected a rather different schedule to the one served up.
On paper, the men’s quarter-finals were concluding, the women’s doubles had reached the semi-finals and, last but not least, the mixed doubles were already at their final.
Instead, fans were served up a Day 9 feast stuffed with four fourth-round men’s matches and four women’s quarter-finals.
And later, to add a couple of cherries to the cake, they would get the first pair of men’s quarter-finals. Everything depended on one thing: the weather.
The out-of-kilter schedule was washed out by two days of rain, but when the sun broke out and the temperatures rose for an 11am start, all seemed right with the world at last.
Priority was given to the men’s fourth-round matches, for it was now essential to bring the bottom half of the draw into line with the top half if the tournament was to get back on track.
It all started rather bizarrely, as three of the matches had the look of a handicap race with games already on the board from the 10 minutes spent on court yesterday.
Gilles Muller, the only man from Luxembourg to compete in a Slam in the Open era, was a break up on Nadal, 3-0, while Donald Young had two games to Andy Murray’s one. Andy Roddick also had a break over the man who beat him in their recent Davis Cup tie, David Ferrer.
All set off at a good pace in front of unnaturally depleted crowds. Order was quickly restored on Arthur Ashe as Nadal broke back against Muller, though he could not shake off the tall left-hander until the tie-breaker: Nadal rose to that challenge, 7-1.
Murray was playing on the calmest of the three main courts: Grandstand enjoys shelter from the wind from its adjoining neighbour, Armstrong, though it found no protection from the overpowering noise of jets roaring low over Flushing.
The aircraft noise swallowed up every other sound on the court but made little difference to Murray, who was firing on all cylinders. He made two breaks of serve in a run of five games to take the first set 6-2.
But through Grandstand’s adjoining wall, all hell was breaking loose on Armstrong. Roddick quickly held serve to consolidate his break from the previous day, 4-1, and Ferrer held serve for 4-2, before everything came to a grinding halt. Water began to seep from cracks in the court and the two men promptly retired to the locker rooms.
As they sat inside awaiting their fate, Nadal and Murray were now two sets to the good, and John Isner’s first ever match against Gilles Simon was starting to grab the attention of the Court 17 fans.
Simon managed to break the huge Isner serve in the first set””an achievement in itself””only to be broken back and concede a tie-break. But then the Frenchman broke Isner again to level their intriguing match 6-3 in the second.
With each of these matches now heading into their third sets, Roddick began finally to lose his cool. After much swabbing of the Armstrong baseline with towels, the referee thought it worth bringing the players out to start again.
As the water continued to seep, Roddick pronounced himself “baffled” and took matters into his own hands. With a “let’s go play,” he led a bewildered Ferrer off to Court 13, a court with no Hawkeye technology and precious few seats compared with Armstrong.
Roddick had not played anywhere but on Ashe since 2002, but now he turned his back in disgust on the Centre’s second court in favour of one he had last used as a junior.
By the time the Roddick and Ferrer score began to tick over again, Murray was done and dusted, 6-2 6-3 6-3, in an hour and three quarters courtesy of 53 unforced errors from Young.
Murray was all over the creative leftie game of the American despite a poor serving performance””47 per cent””that took him immediately to the practice courts to work on his serve before, rain permitting, tomorrow’s quarter-final.
It took a while longer to find out who Murray’s opponent would be, as Isner and Simon took over three and a half hours to sort out their differences, and their differences were, in the end, not very great.
A further two tie-breakers went the way of the first, to Isner, which took him to his first Grand Slam quarter-final.
By now, Nadal had also overcome the early resistance of his opponent to take the next two sets with ease, 6-1, 6-2. Nadal’s form is improving nicely towards the final stages: He made just 11 unforced errors in this one and served at 73 percent.
His handling of the media is also improving nicely and he refused to be drawn on the issue of scheduling or on the players’ influence””or lack of it””in the Grand Slams.
Nor would he be drawn to talk about Roddick as his next opponent. At the time, his friend and compatriot, Ferrer, was still on court: “The match is not over
“It’s two sets to love, but David is back up. I have big respect for Andy, especially he’s very tough to be there for a long time. So will be a big test for me if I play against him. Even if I play against David Ferrer [it is] going to be a very difficult match.”
Nadal was right to withhold judgement. Ferrer not only pulled back the third set but took a break in fourth. However, Roddick, who won his only Grand Slam here in 2003, has the look of a man on a mission and came back at Ferrer to win in four sets 6-3 6-4 3-6 6-3.
Roddick’s recent slide to 21 in the rankings””his first time outside the top 20 since August 2001″”follows a poor run since winning Memphis back in February.
But here he looks at home, and for his quarter-final match against Nadal, he knows he will be back on Arthur Ashe and he know that, barring rain, he will be playing again tomorrow. It could be a blood-on-the-courts moment.
But what of Armstrong? It was closed for the rest of the day’s schedule, leaving Caroline Wozniacki to follow Roddick onto Court 13 to beat Andrea Petkovic in her quarter-final.
The official statement claims: “All courts were completely dried prior to play on Thursday. However, as the sun began to warm, or “bake” the courts, evaporation of these saturated conditions began to surface on Louis Armstrong Stadium. Until this situation is rectified, no further play will occur [there].”
Let’s hope then””for all concerned””that they don’t get any more rain.