Reporting from New York — Andy Roddick is out of the U.S. Open, and lately when Roddick is eliminated from major tournaments, it's the end of American men in the draw.
But here Thursday there was 19th-seeded Mardy Fish gliding around the Louis Armstrong Stadium court using his sweet touch, able to time his volleys, willing to change the pace on his groundstrokes. Combined with a late-career decision to become supremely physically fit, the 28-year-old Fish looks rejuvenated, especially after his 7-5, 6-0, 6-2 victory over Pablo Cuevas in his second-round match.
In a much different way, 30-year-old James Blake, who thought about retiring after Wimbledon, feeling his sore knees were broken for good and whose spirit was injured as well, is also making a mark. He moved into the third round Thursday with a 6-7 (1), 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 win over Canadian qualifier Peter Polansky, who is ranked 205th in the world.
After the final point of his 2-hour 29-minute match, Blake pointed to the court and shouted, "My house," as the crowd stood. The win earned Blake a third-round date with third-seeded Novak Djokovic, who beat Germany's Philipp Petzschner, 7-5, 6-3, 7-6 (6).
Scheduled to play second-round matches Friday are 18th-seeded John Isner and 20th-seeded Sam Querrey.
Fish, who lost 30 pounds over the last year in a commitment to get into the best shape possible, is pleased with his play. "I think I was pretty solid throughout," Fish said. "Much more aggressive than the first round. Physically, I feel great. This is the spot I want to be in."
Another American made a breakthrough on the women's side too, as 18-year-old Beatrice Capra, a student at the Evert Tennis Academy in Boca Raton, Fla., upset 18th-seeded Aravane Rezai of France, 7-5, 2-6, 6-3.
Capra, who is ranked 371st in the world (and, no, she is not related to movie director Frank Capra) and got into the main draw only because of a wild card given to her by the United States Tennis Assn., had taken down 95th-ranked Karolina Sprem of Croatia in the first round.
No one around here could help it. Capra is now the Melanie Oudin of the 2010 tournament.
Oudin was 17 last year when she beat four higher-ranked opponents in a row in what she called her " Cinderella run" to the quarterfinals. Oudin left this year's tournament beaten in the second round Wednesday night and wistfully hoping that she gets to be Cinderella one more time before her career is over.
Capra said she watched every second of Oudin's fun last season.
Not many weeks ago Capra thought she'd just be playing the juniors here and mostly, in her words, "chilling out." She had been upset in the national 18-under tournament. "I went home from that thinking I was going to take a week off," she said.
Capra had to earn her spot in the U.S. Open main draw by winning a wild-card playoff. Now she is in the third round and will face 14th-seeded Maria Sharapova, probably on the Arthur Ashe Stadium court. Sharapova beat Benesova Thursday night, 6-1, 6-2, and, by the way, Sharapova was one of the higher-ranked players that Oudin beat last year.
"I looked up to Melanie last year," Capra said. "I watched all of her matches and was so happy for her. It was really inspiring to me because I played her a year before and then she was getting to the quarters of a Grand Slam. I think she's pushed all of the Americans to do better."
One suspects that should Capra win another round of the main draw, juniors will be out. And college? Maybe that too.
Upset of the day
Sixth-seeded Nikolay Davydenko of Russia, who had been a key figure in a tennis gambling investigation two years ago (he was cleared) was eliminated by 38th-ranked Richard Gasquet of France, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. Gasquet served a doping suspension last year after a drug test indicated cocaine in his system. Gasquet's excuse? He had kissed an unfamiliar woman in a Miami bar and the woman might have had cocaine on her lips.
Friday's featured matches
Beginning at 10 a.m. PDT at Arthur Ashe Stadium, 12th-seeded Elena Dementieva against 24th-seeded Daniela Hantuchova; defending champion and second-seeded Kim Clijsters against Wimbledon semifinalist and 27th-seeded Petra Kvitova; and fourth-seeded Andy Murray against Jamaica's Dustin Brown. Beginning at 4 p.m., third-seeded Venus Williams against qualifier Mandy Minella of Luxembourg and top-seeded Rafael Nadal against Denis Istomin. Second on Louis Armstrong Stadium is John Isner against Marco Chiudinelli, followed by Ana Ivanovic against Virginie Razzano and Sam Querrey of Thousand Oaks against Marcel Granollers.