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Former champ Roddick can still serve heat

Wed., Aug. 29, 2012, midnight

Andy Roddick returns a shot to Rhyne Williams during victory. (Associated Press)
Andy Roddick returns a shot to Rhyne Williams during victory. (Associated Press)

TENNIS: That Andy Roddick’s last match as a twentysomething would not be his last match at the 2012 U.S. Open was hardly in doubt Tuesday, especially whenever he was launching that intimidating, tough-to-handle serve of his.

To close the first set: ace at 141 mph.

To close the second: ace at 134 mph.

To close the third: ace at 127 mph.

Yes, even as Roddick’s 30th birthday approaches on Thursday, even as his body has succumbed to injury after injury, that serve is pretty much still the same as it ever was. Now that he more frequently faces opponents who grew up cheering for him – such as 21-year-old qualifier Rhyne Williams of Knoxville, Tenn., the foil for Tuesday’s 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory – Roddick knows more than ever he needs to rely on the best thing he has, and 20 aces helped this time.

“I’m like, ‘Oh, no. Where’s he going?’ That’s the first thing I thought of. Then it was, ‘It’ll be great. I can play in front of a big crowd.’ It was quite an experience,” said Williams, the NCAA runner-up for the University of Tennessee last year and a 12-year-old when Roddick won the U.S. Open in 2003.

That was the last Grand Slam singles title for an American man, the longest drought in history.

Roddick found himself in an era dominated by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal – and, more recently and to a lesser extent, Novak Djokovic, who began defense of his U.S. Open title by overwhelming 69th-ranked Paolo Lorenzi of Italy 6-1, 6-0, 6-1.

Roddick was followed into Arthur Ashe Stadium by 32-year-old Venus Williams. After a shaky start, dropping the first two games – and seven points in a row in one stretch – Williams used her powerful serve to right herself and beat Bethanie Mattek-Sands of the U.S. 6-3, 6-1.

Venus Williams won the 2000 and 2001 U.S. Opens, two of her seven career Grand Slam titles. That’s half as many as her younger sister, Serena, who began her bid for No. 15 with a 6-1, 6-1 victory over 75th-ranked CoCo Vandeweghe in the day’s last match in Ashe, yet another all-American affair.

Three of the day’s most notable upsets were turned in by young, up-and-coming Americans. In singles, 19-year-old Sloane Stephens, who is ranked 44th, eliminated 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone 6-3, 6-4. And in doubles, 19-year-old Jack Sock and 22-year-old Steve Johnson knocked out the top-seeded team of Max Mirnyi of Belarus and Daniel Nestor of Canada 1-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2, while brothers Ryan and Christian Harrison defeated last year’s runners-up, Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski of Poland 7-6 (3), 2-6, 7-6 (7).

Game postponed by Hurricane Isaac

FOOTBALL: Texas A&M and Louisiana Tech have decided to postpone Thursday night’s season opener in Shreveport, La., because of Hurricane Isaac’s forecast path through Louisiana.

The game has been rescheduled until Oct. 13, which had been an open date for both teams.

Assault suspects arrested: Police arrested three suspects in the assault on Wisconsin running back Montee Ball, a Heisman Trophy finalist last season.

Ball sustained a concussion when he was attacked by several men near campus in Madison, Wis., on Aug. 1.

Police have said the attack may have been related to an altercation at a house party that Ball attended a few days earlier.

Ball has denied any involvement in the fight. The senior says he hopes to be ready for the season opener.

Mississippi State bans booster: Mississippi State has disassociated from an athletics booster because of “impermissible contact” with a prospective student-athlete.

The booster’s name was redacted from documents provided to The Associated Press after a Freedom of Information Act request. Mississippi State announced last week that it is cooperating with the NCAA because of a “potential recruiting irregularity.”

The disassociation letter is the latest look into a football program that is dealing with NCAA scrutiny as the Bulldogs’ season opener against Jackson State approaches on Saturday.

Vandersloot has 17 in loss to Connecticut

WNBA: Reserve Courtney Vandersloot scored 17 points to lead five Chicago players in double figures but it wasn’t enough as the Connecticut Sun opened a four-game road trip with an 83-72 win over the Chicago Sky.

Vandersloot, the former Gonzaga University standout, also had six assists and three steals.

League scoring leader suspended: The Atlanta Dream suspended WNBA scoring leader Angel McCoughtry indefinitely for violating team rules. Dream spokeswoman Tonya Allene said that new coach and general manager Fred Williams told McCoughtry before a game against Tulsa that she was suspended.

NHL offers new contract proposal

Miscellany: The NHL issued a new proposal to the players’ association as a lockout looms next month.

And at least one side is happy about it.

“We believe,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said, “that we made a significant, meaningful step.”

Time will tell, but at least NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr and his players have another proposal to digest. The sides will meet again today.

Degenkolb wins stage: John Degenkolb won the 10th stage of the Spanish Vuelta on for his fourth victory in this year’s cycling race.

Joaquin Rodriguez of Spain kept the overall lead on the eve of a crucial time trial. Rodriguez kept his 53-second edge over Christopher Froome of Britain. Alberto Contador is 1 minute behind.


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