One Heated Match

Tennis Legg Mason Classic

Defending Champ Del Potro Tops Roddick

97-degree Weather Quiets Crowd

August 10, 2009|By Liz Clarke | Liz Clarke,The Washington Post

WASHINGTON - - It was an hour and 20 minutes into the Legg Mason Classic, and Andy Roddick had just reclaimed the momentum after a lapse earlier in the second set.

As the American blasted yet another serve past his opponent, Juan Martin del Potro, a lone voice screamed out from a capacity crowd that had been lulled to a stupor by the sweltering heat: "Let's go, Andy! It's hot!"

Roddick fell short in his ability to close the match.

In the end, it was del Potro, the 6-foot-6 Argentine and the tournament's defending champion, who handled Washington's most miserable afternoon of the summer best, outlasting the oppressive humidity, 97-degree temperature and Roddick's 21 aces to prevail, 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (6).

According to the sport's current rankings, del Potro's victory qualifies as a mild upset, with the Argentine sixth in the world this week, and Roddick fifth.

But Roddick, a three-time Legg Mason champion, strode into the William H.G. Fitzgerald Tennis Center as a heavy crowd favorite.

But as the two-hour, 30-minute match ground on, del Potro ramped up his aggression, as if determined to bring the contest to an end.

Del Potro unleashed 12 of his 19 aces in the third set.

"I think he might have been feeling it more than I did," Roddick said of his opponent and the debilitating heat. "He was rolling the dice, and he hit Yahtzee a couple of times."

Roddick won the statistical battle in several categories, finishing with more aces, a higher percentage of first serves (68 for Roddick; 55 for del Potro) and fewer unforced errors (20 to the Argentine's 32).

And del Potro didn't hesitate to put his massive forehand and booming serve to the test.

"For me, it was very difficult to play against him," del Potro said afterward. "I beat him, but the difference was so close."

Temperatures were in the mid-90s when the first ball was tossed up shortly after 3 p.m.

Both on court and off, Roddick is enjoying newfound support since his stirring effort in the final at Wimbledon, where he fell to Roger Federer in a more-than-four-hour, five-set marathon.

Still, for long stretches of the match, it was hard to tell whether the crowd of 7,500 had a rooting interest at all. Their hand-held paper fans flapped furiously in the leaden air, but summoning a cheer apparently was too taxing to consider - particularly with Roddick on course to win his fourth Legg Mason title without anyone's help.

But del Potro pounced on an error-filled game by the American in the second set and broke his serve to take a 5-3 lead.

While the match featured two of the best six players in the world, the prospect of sitting through a third set in the blazing sun seemed to deflate the crowd.

The stadium was all but silent as they played on, swapping breaks and toweling off between each point.

Roddick committed the first costly error of the tiebreak, over-hitting a backhand approach shot to hand del Potro an early edge.

Suddenly del Potro's serve couldn't miss, and he took a 4-1 lead on a 136 mile-an-hour down the centerline.

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