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Roddick Still Has Game in England

Among U.S. men, he advances as Fish, Martin and Gimelstob exit. Among U.S. women, Venus Williams, Davenport move on.

June 28, 2003|Lisa Dillman | Times Staff Writer

WIMBLEDON, England — The closest thing to Pete Sampras at Centre Court on Friday was an imitation of his famous skyhook overhead.

Make that, a pale reproduction.

Mardy Fish soared, then came back down to the turf, having missed the flamboyant shot in the second set against Roger Federer of Switzerland.

It would be easy to say that shot, and the subsequent four-set loss, summed up the day for the American men at Wimbledon.

Easy, but not entirely accurate.

Four U.S. men played third-round matches in the top half of the draw, and only one, Andy Roddick, advanced. The No. 5-seeded Roddick defeated Tommy Robredo of Spain, 7-6 (5), 6-4, 6-4, reaching the fourth round for the first time at Wimbledon. Next, Roddick will play No. 12 Paradorn Srichaphan of Thailand, who ended the Wimbledon dream of youngster Rafael Nadal, beating the 17-year-old Spaniard, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.

The three other U.S. men playing Friday took vastly different exit routes. Todd Martin's was the longest, Justin Gimelstob's the shortest and Fish's the least straightforward, full of stops and starts because of rainy weather.

On the women's side, two Americans advanced, and one lost. Venus Williams, seeded No. 4, beat French Open semifinalist Nadia Petrova of Russia, 6-1, 6-2, and No. 5 Lindsay Davenport dispatched Cara Black of Zimbabwe, 6-2, 6-2. Silvia Farina Elia of Italy upset No. 7 Chanda Rubin, 7-6 (6), 6-3.

Australian Open finalist Rainer Schuettler, a German seeded No. 9, beat Martin, 4-6, 7-5, 6-7 (1), 6-1, 7-5, in 3 hours 30 minutes. Swedish veteran Jonas Bjorkman defeated Gimelstob, 6-1, 6-3, 6-3, in 1 hour 36 minutes, and No. 4 Federer kept his head together during two rain delays and darkening skies, finishing off Fish shortly before nightfall, winning, 6-3, 6-1, 4-6, 6-1.

"I'm happy I finished it today, after so many breaks," said Federer, who will face Spanish left-hander Feliciano Lopez in the fourth round. "In the end, it got really dark.... Almost lost my serve because I wanted to get out of there."

Said Fish: "You've got to hand it to the guy. I don't really see too many guys beating him if he plays like that. I played a great third set, as good as I can play, and I beat him, 6-4."

This was the first time Fish had played on the main show court at a Grand Slam tournament, and Roddick advised him to check out Centre Court before walking out for the match, to get acclimated. He said he felt as though he could never get on track, and Federer simply didn't allow him to do so until the third set. Still, Fish kept at it and stayed even in the third until 4-4, then broke Federer at 30, with a full-stretch forehand volley. Centre Court fans rallied behind him, pushing for a fourth set.

"I got a little bit of chills when the crowd was backing me. Obviously they wanted to see more tennis, probably doesn't have anything to do with the player," Fish said. "They were getting behind me when I won that 4-4 game to go 5-4, and played that really good point; it was kind of surreal."

He joked about trying the Sampras skyhook twice. Sampras, in virtual retirement, is missing his first Wimbledon since 1988.

"I shanked the first one, but made it," Fish said. "And hit the second one perfect, and missed it. I hit the shot fine and missed it wide and lost that game. Errors like that creep into my game, and it's a little bit of something that separates me from those guys."

The prospect of Roddick's power vs. Federer's flair and finesse already has many looking ahead to a possible semifinal.

"Hopefully Andy can take him," Fish said. "I don't watch much tennis on TV, but I would definitely watch that one."

Also advancing to the fourth round was Max Mirnyi of Belarus, who defeated 6-foot-10 Ivo Karlovic of Croatia, 7-6 (5), 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4), despite Karlovic's 26 aces.

"He's got such a weird serve," Mirnyi said. "The trajectory it's coming from, it takes some time to get used to. It certainly caused me some trouble today. But I instructed myself well enough where I made a couple of returns when it mattered most."

Karlovic, who took out defending champion Lleyton Hewitt in the first round, happily posed for youngsters holding the Croatian flag outside the press center well after the match. The kids looked like toddlers standing next to him

Schuettler, the conqueror of Martin, will play Sjeng Schalken of the Netherlands in another fourth-round match. For Martin, it seems as though every day is a great day to play five. He has played in 35 five-set matches in his career.

"I didn't need to play five sets today, and that's the unfortunate thing about it," Martin said.

"In fact, the fifth set was probably the best that we played and Rainer, unfortunately, played it better than I did."

Martin, 32, was asked to assess his career, and whether he would make it to the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Martin has reached two Grand Slam singles finals, at the 1994 Australian Open and the 1999 U.S. Open.

"I'm in the Greater Lansing Sports Hall of Fame and also the Northwestern Hall of Fame, and I would suspect that's where I'll stop," he said.

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