Slow-starting Roddick vaults past Chela

Ignoring ailing back, foot, 20-year-old dazzles crowd with hard serves, hustle

U.S. Open

September 04, 2002|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK - Andy Roddick's back hurt, but he served at 139 mph. And his foot was so badly inflamed he needed a 10-minute medical timeout to have it patched, padded, sprayed and wrapped.

It was shortly after Roddick's foot repair at the start of the second set that his opponent, Juan Ignacio Chela, ran him from one end of Queens to the other on a single point. The idea was to make Roddick's foot hurt more.

But No. 11 seed Roddick turned into Superman.

He recovered from being pulled far right of the court and then far left. He turned and tracked down a drop shot, scrambled to recover a lob, sprinted for another drop and finally run at full speed to catch up to a ball that had bounced toward the grandstands.

He caught up to it, returned it for a winner and continued into the stands of Louis Armstrong Stadium to high-five joyous fans.

It was the beginning of the end for Chela, who went out of the U.S. Open, behind Roddick's 5-7, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 victory.

For Roddick, 20, it will be his second trip to the Open quarterfinals.

"I started pretty slow." Roddick said. "If it had happened to me last year, I don't know if I could have come back and won three sets like I did to night."

On Arthur Ashe Stadium court, No. 3 Tommy Haas and No. 17 Pete Sampras played to determine who will meet the boy wonder tomorrow night.

"There would be something special about playing Pete." said Roddick, before the Sampras-Haas match was over. "He was my idol growing up, and Pete is Pete. He's able to lift his game. This is his house."

Gustavo Kuerten, the former No. 1 player who has missed much of the year because of hip surgery and was unseeded here, saw his run end under a warm sun yesterday afternoon. Kuerten started very slowly and could not overcome a two-set deficit in a 6-3, 7-6 (6), 6-7 (5), 7-6 (4) loss to No. 24 seed Sjeng Schalken.

Schalken has played well at times this year, too, making it to the quarterfinals at Wimbledon before losing a five-setter to No.1 Lleyton Hewitt. Next he'll meet first-time quarterfinalist Fernando Gonzalez, a 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 winner over Arnaud Clement.

This afternoon, No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt and No. 20 Younes El Aynaoui will meet to determine who will advance to the semifinals in their bracket. Tonight, No. 32 Max Mirmyi will take on No. 6 Andre Agassi to find out who will meet the Hewitt-El Aynaoui winner.

The road in this U.S. Open has been made harder by the weather for some. Hewitt and Agassi got through to the quarterfinals before the rain really held up the schedule.

But some players went to bed Monday night knowing they'd have to play again yesterday and faced playing and winning five matches in seven days to claim the title.

For the young, like Roddick and Haas, it may not have seemed daunting. For men like Kuerten, recovering from surgery, and Sampras, coping with age, it is another story. After Greg Rusedski beat Sampras Monday night, he said bluntly the workload would be too much for the 12-time Grand Slam champion.

And Agassi, who has been nothing but supportive of Sampras, allowed, without naming names: "It's tougher on some than others. You hope your matches aren't longer than necessary when you're forced to play back-to-back'

Somewhat surprisingly, back-to-back matches did prove a problem for Roddick. Shortly after the first set began, he called a trainer because his backached. The trainer was called again before the start of the second set to examine Roddick's left foot, which had begun bothering him the night before.

As the trainer tended to Roddick, Chela, who had beaten Roddick on hard courts in Miami earlier this year, relaxed and enjoyed a serenade from his Argentine supporters.

That was about the last good moment he had.

Roddick ran off two quick sets and then, while feeding off the animated crowd, pumped and hammered his fist with nearly every point. On a set point try, he actually hurled himself head first along the baseline, trying to make the point. He wasn't long enough, but on the next point, Chela double-faulted. Not long after, the Argentine was gone.

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