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Federer Withstands Barrage of Serves

September 01, 2003|Lisa Dillman | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — James Blake spent the entire night serving against Roger Federer.

OK, it only seemed that way.

The break points kept coming and coming, almost as if they were on a conveyer belt. Blake would knock one away and another would pop up, almost like in the famous episode of "I Love Lucy." Blake was ordinary at deuce, extraordinary at ad out.

For Blake, the problem was that Federer, the Wimbledon champion, was in his usual rarefied form. The second-seeded Federer of Switzerland defeated Blake, 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-3, in the third round at the U.S. Open on Sunday night in 2 hours 1 minute.

Incredibly, Federer had 20 break points in the second set, and converted only one. In one game, Blake saved eight break points, as it included 10 deuces. In all, Federer was three for 23 on break-point opportunities.

"That just happens," said Federer, who had 10 aces. "I should have maybe made the first or second one. Then you miss it, he gets into the rhythm of serving. Then it gets more difficult."

Though Federer was heavily favored against Blake, some had seen a glimmer or two of optimism for Blake after he reached the final of the ATP event just before the Open at Long Island.

Blake has supplied the fans here with three consecutive years of thrillers, having been eliminated by Lleyton Hewitt at the Open the last two tournaments, both in five-set matches.

"It's getting a little frustrating," he said. "I've had some tough draws. I need to work the rest of the year to get higher seeding, so I don't have to get these tough draws. I am getting tired of coming to the U.S. Open, playing great tennis and being known more for my losses than my wins."

Federer joined No. 1 Andre Agassi and No. 4 Andy Roddick in the fourth round, as well as No. 7 Carlos Moya of Spain, No. 8 Rainer Schuettler of Germany, No. 12 Sjeng Schalken of the Netherlands, No. 13 David Nalbandian of Argentina, Xavier Malisse of Belgium and Younes El Aynaoui of Morocco. El Aynaoui thrilled the crowd with his charismatic manner and shot-making, beating Jiri Novak of the Czech Republic, 7-6 (1), 5-7, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (5), in 3 hours 29 minutes.

Agassi completed his match with Yevgeny Kafelnikov of Russia, winning 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-4. It had been carried over from Saturday, and Agassi was critical of the decision. The match was halted because of rain. All the other singles matches were completed later, but officials did not want to keep the fans for the night session waiting, so Agassi-Kafelnikov was moved to Sunday, apparently without consulting the players.

"But for the match to be called, and to be the only match that didn't finish yesterday, I think was a mistake, an oversight in judgment," said Agassi, who added that officials had apologized for the way the matter was handled.

Roddick, who defeated Flavio Saretta of Brazil, 6-1, 6-3, 6-3, seemed to ratchet his personality down a few levels in the aftermath of Ivan Ljubicic's criticism of his on-court demeanor. The tame Roddick was just as good as the exuberant one, as he didn't face a break point until the last game of the match.

"There was no need for it," Roddick said. "I've been playing like that for the last three months. Just so happened that the other night I really needed it."

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