Roddick nabs 2nd title at Legg Mason

No. 1 seed thwarts Blake's try for win after '04 illness, 7-5, 6-3

Tennis

August 08, 2005|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - James Blake knew trouble lurked on Stadium Court at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic yesterday. Have his serve broken twice - or even just once - by No. 1 seed Andy Roddick and his chances of winning were slim, if any at all.

So every time he let a game slip or left a chance for a break point on Roddick's serve on the court, Blake groaned. And each groan brought him closer to the inevitable, as Roddick completed his march through the tournament draw at the William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center with a 7-5, 6-3 victory.

"I didn't feel it was a necessity to win, because this is the part of the season where I start playing well," said Roddick, who captured his second Legg Mason title, having won in 2001. "For me, it's more about momentum heading into the U.S. Open and this is a good start."

Blake, also a previous winner here in 2002, was thrilled to be back, playing well in his first tournament final in two years.

"I guess, the biggest thing for me was to show everyone else I still have the game," Blake said. "And that I'm not to be taken lightly. Everyone is saying this is my welcome back tournament. But I feel I have been back, it's just that now it's beginning to show."

And when the on-court match was over, it was Blake who stole the crowd's collective heart.

He thanked the fans for supporting him here last year, when he was recovering from a broken neck, his father's death and suffering from zoster, a condition that paralyzed half of his face and impacted his eyesight and hearing, making him, in his own words, "unworthy of being here."

Then, he said, "My mom's [70th] birthday is tomorrow [today]. She's hard to shop for. So could everyone help me by singing `Happy Birthday' to my mom?"

And the crowd did, as Blake led the way with "Happy birthday Mommy."

Roddick won the second set and final point of the match with a 126-mph ace after fighting off another break point to do it.

But he couldn't win the post-match exchange, telling the crowd after Blake's heartfelt speech, "I'm usually pretty good at these things. But James just threw me under a bus with that one."

Roddick drew big cheers, though, when he acknowledged the character of his opponent.

"As good a player as James is, he's a better person," Roddick said. "Last year we almost lost him with injuries ... and now we're so happy to have him back."

It was a match between friends, but, nonetheless, one filled with desire.

Blake started slow. He gave up a break in his first service game but fought back from 4-1 down to even the set 4-4.

"I didn't get the first break point I had on Andy's serve, but when I had the chance for the second one, I took it," Blake said of the seventh game, in which he broke back and closed to 4-3.

It was the first time Roddick, who had only faced two break points on his serve in the entire tournament before yesterday, was broken. He saved three of four yesterday.

Roddick, though, was far from done, and when an errant Blake backhand gave him another break chance in the 12th game of the set, he took it, helped along by a Blake overhead shot that landed long.

"That was unexpected," Roddick said. "He missed a couple shots he hadn't missed to that point. But that's tennis. It was unexpected, but I was happy to see it."

In the second set, there was only one break, the one Roddick got in the eighth game to take a 5-3 lead before serving it out.

"I think a lot of the quality of the match was lost because ... neither of us wanted to go to the other's forehand strength," said Roddick, who said he noticed Blake has become a more patient player. "You definitely had to put the ball where you wanted it."

NOTES: Roddick stayed at No. 5 in the ATP entry rankings, while Blake jumped from No. 101 to No. 71. ... Roddick earned $74,250 for his hour-and-18-minute performance. Blake earned $43,700. ... In the doubles championship, brothers Bob and Mike Bryan defeated Wayne Black and Kevin Ullyett, 6-4, 6-2. The tournament drew a record 75,745 for the week.

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