No. 4 seed Roddick upset in 1st round

No. 68 Muller has 24 aces in straight-set victory

Blake's run continues

U.S. Open

August 31, 2005|By Charles Bricker | Charles Bricker,SOUTH FLORIDA SUN-SENTINEL

NEW YORK - Gilles Muller, who at 22 might already be the greatest player in Luxembourg's insignificant tennis history, used his precise left-handed serving and punishing forehands to overpower Andy Roddick last night in the second shocking upset in as many days at the U.S. Open.

Muller hammered and slashed 24 aces, 18 in the first two sets, as he tore through Roddick, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (8), 7-6 (1), to reach the second round against Robby Ginepri, Roddick's good friend who defeated Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (5).

"For me, it was just unbelievable to come out here today," Muller said. "I told myself to enjoy it and I did every minute."

On Monday, defending women's champion Svetlana Kuznetsova was beaten in straight sets by Ekaterina Bychkova.

From the moment the draw was made one week ago, Roddick, the champion two years ago and the No. 4 seed this year, knew he was in for a tough opening week. Muller, ranked No. 68, had reached the final at Los Angeles on July 31, where he lost to Andre Agassi.

But his showing there marked him as a player with the power to reach the top 20.

For Roddick, it was only the second time he has been put out in the first round of a Grand Slam not played on clay. The first was in his Grand Slam debut here in 2000.

Playing on his 23rd birthday last night, Roddick had 17 aces, but his backhand failed him time and again, including on match point, and he didn't win nearly enough of the few lengthy rallies in this match.

"I don't really remember a loss where I've felt this bad afterwards," Roddick said. "I love playing here. I probably had the best practice week I've ever had in leadup. It just didn't translate tonight. ... I'm in a little bit of shock right now, to be honest. I'd give anything to go back four hours right now."

Earlier in the day, Andy Murray, who won the U.S. Open juniors a year ago, further authenticated his reputation as a courageous, toughened young player who gives everything he has in every match.

This time, however, the 18-year-old Scot really left it all on the court.

Leading 2-1 in the fifth set of a gut-wrenching victory over Andrei Pavel on an oppressively humid afternoon, Murray threw up, causing a 21-minute delay but only briefly derailing his momentum.

While U.S. Open workers cleaned up the court, Murray changed his shirt, then finished the job with a 6-3, 3-6, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory that will make him, once again, the toast of the British Isles.

He's the only British player standing after American James Blake, on the best run of his career, took out Greg Rusedski 7-5, 7-6 (3), 6-3 and No. 12 seed Tim Henman was stunned by big-swinging lefty Fernando Verdasco - only the second time in his past 23 Grand Slam events that Henman has lost in the first round.

If Murray's three-hour and 18-minute performance will be remembered for something other than his racket work, the job Blake did will be recalled for all the right reasons.

He has now won 11 of his past 13 matches, including a title last week at New Haven, and rolls into the second round against the Russian Igor Andreev.

Blake now is one round removed from playing No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal, a match that could provide a pivotal point in his rejuvenating career.

This was more like the Blake that roared up the rankings in 2002 before the rest of the tour got the drift of his game and he was waylaid by a succession of injuries. He's back now with a more mature game and he was blazing Tuesday.

"Couldn't be better," Blake said, self-satisfied. "Another example of a match I wouldn't have won six months ago. I probably wouldn't have won a couple years ago," Blake said.

Roddick and Henman were the only upsets on Day 2. Top-seeded Roger Federer ran quickly through Ivo Minar 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 to lead No. 6 Nikolay Davydenko, No. 11 David Nalbandian and No. 16 Radek Stepanek into the second round.

On the women's side, No. 2 Lindsay Davenport was a 6-4, 6-4 winner over Na Li in her opening match and advance with No. 3 Amelie Mauresmo, No. 6 Elena Dementieva, No. 7 Justine Henin-Hardenne, No. 11 Patty Schnyder, No. 12 Mary Pierce, No. 13 Anastasia Myskina and No. 15 Nathalie Dechy.

The Associated Press contributed to this article. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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