The last two times Andy Roddick played singles on Court 13, he walked off in defeat.
But that wasn't the case on Thursday, when the charged-up American veteran pulled of his most impressive victory of the year, taking out No. 5 David Ferrer, who had defeated him on US soil – and Austin, no less -- in Davis Cup in July 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
After winning on Court 13, Roddick ran around court high-fiving a good portion of the 584 or so fans who were lucky enough to get a seat. It was a special moment for them as well as Roddick, who has had a difficult year due to injuries and was not a favorite coming into the Open.
“I played there in 1999. I lost to Scott Lipsky in juniors first round,” the 2003 US Open champion recalled. “Year before that, I lost to Fernando Gonzalez out there first round in juniors…. I like playing kind of the smaller, more intimate stuff when I can. I haven't always gotten that opportunity here. I know Armstrong and Grandstand, there are so many great courts here that I just haven't been a part of at all. I didn't think Court 13 was in my future, but I probably could have promised you if it ever came to that I was just going to call it quits. But extenuating circumstances, I guess. I enjoyed myself out there, though.”
Roddick did more than just enjoy himself, he played as well as he has all year. After he knocked off young Canadian Milos Raonic to win Memphis in February, he lost some of his form and then was struck with a shoulder injury that forced him to pull out of Roland Garros and affected his play at Wimbledon.
His injuries didn’t end there. Roddick tore an abdominal muscle the week after Davis Cup and wasn't sure he's be ready for the Open. He returned in Cincinnati extremely rusty, lost early and then went to the tournament in Winston Salem, where he began to find his sea legs again and reached the semifinals.
In New York, the 29-year-old scrapped through his first round match, but then found his rhythm in the second and third round in straight set wins over Jack Sock and Julien Benneteau. Against Ferrer, was able to cut lose and played aggressive, heady tennis.
“I didn't know what to expect,” Roddick said. “I knew that I was playing a little bit better at Winston Salem. I knew it was huge to get four matches there. I didn't play at all from Wimbledon till, you know, 10 days before this event, so I was definitely short on matches. It's tough to get confidence by winning matches when you're not playing any. I just needed to get some continuity and play a little bit, and this was probably the best match I've played this year.”
Roddick will face defending champion Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals, who he bested at the US Open the first time they played back in 2004. While the 10-time Grand Slam champion Nadal was a rookie then, he isn't anymore. He dispensed the powerful Austrian Gilles Muller 7-6, 6-1, 6-2, and despite being put off mentally by the frequent rain storms over the past two days, seemed very focused.
Nadal and Roddick have played nine times, with the Spaniard holding a 6-3 edge. Nadal has won four out of the last five matches, including a close three-set win in the 2010 ATP World Finals. None of their nine matches have been blowouts, so expect a close one.
”Andy is a fantastic player,” Nadal said. “He's having one of the best careers, being in the top players for, I don't know, 11 years, 10 years, nine years. That's a lot. That's amazing. So I have big respect for Andy, especially he's very tough to be there for a long time and he did. So will be a big test for me.”
Roddick has now reached the US Open quarterfinals eight times, but former champions have more on their mind than repeating as members of the final eight club. It's the first time that he has reached the quarters of major since the 2010 Australian Open, so you can be sure he'll try and make the most of his opportunities. He does not see Nadal as unbeatable, but without question he has to try and take it to him. As steady as Roddick is, he's not going to be able to run an endless foot race with the fleet and strong Spaniard and come away the winner.
“It's tough,” Roddick said. “I'm gonna have to play pretty aggressively now, similar to what I did today. He's one of the greatest ever, so I'm gonna have to have a repeat [of how I played against Ferrer] at least.”