NEW YORK – Knowing full well each match could be his last, Andy Roddick is putting on a show while soaking up every moment along the way.
So when he pounded a forehand passing shot to seize a 20-stroke point Sunday, Roddick thrust both arms overhead, motioning to the full house of U.S. Open spectators to make even more noise. Moments later, after hitting a winning volley, Roddick wagged his right index finger while chugging back to the baseline.
Channeling his inner Jimmy Connors, Roddick is having a grand ol’ time at his retirement party – and he’s not done yet.
Winning a second consecutive match since announcing the U.S. Open will be the last tournament of his career, 2003 champion Roddick stuck around at least a little longer by getting past 59th-ranked Fabio Fognini of Italy 7-5, 7-6 (1), 4-6, 6-4 in the third round Sunday.
“I’d be an idiot not to use the crowd right now. It’s a huge advantage,” Roddick said. “Each match is almost like it’s another memory.”
What comes next could really be memorable. In the fourth round Tuesday, the last American man to win a Grand Slam title will face 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro, who defeated Leonardo Mayer 6-3, 7-5, 7-6 (9) in an all-Argentine match that featured one particularly noteworthy point. In the tiebreaker, Mayer smacked a backhand that somehow ricocheted off the top of a net post and landed in the court – but del Potro was unfazed, got the ball back and wound up winning the point.
“I’m going to have to serve well, kind of try to rush him a little bit,” Roddick said about del Potro. “When he gets into a groove and has time, he’ll put a hurt on the ball.”
Novak Djokovic, the defending champion, beat No. 31 Julien Benneteau in straight sets and will meet No. 18 Stanislas Wawrinka for a quarterfinal berth. Also advancing: No. 4 David Ferrer, who got past two-time major champion Lleyton Hewitt 7-6 (9), 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 and now meets No. 13 Richard Gasquet, who eliminated two-time NCAA champion Steve Johnson 7-6 (4), 6-2, 6-3; and No. 8 Janko Tipsarevic, who will face the winner of Sunday night’s last match between No. 9 John Isner of the United States and No. 19 Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany.
In women’s action, Maria Sharapova got back to the U.S. Open quarterfinals for the first time since winning the 2006 title, taking control of a back-and-forth match after a 75-minute rain delay and beating No. 19 Nadia Petrova 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 on Sunday night.
Sharapova will play No. 11 Marion Bartoli, the 2007 Wimbledon runner-up, who came back to defeat 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova 1-6, 6-2, 6-0.
Top-seeded Victoria Azarenka beat 73rd-ranked Anna Tatishvili 6-2, 6-2 to reach the quarterfinals at Flushing Meadows for the first time. Azarenka has dropped only 10 games through four matches heading into a showdown against defending champion Sam Stosur, a 6-4, 6-4 winner over 18-year-old Laura Robson of Britain, whose breakthrough run included wins against past major champions Kim Clijsters and Li Na.
Sunday just so happened to be five-time U.S. Open champion Connors’ 60th birthday — and on the very same date in 1991, Connors celebrated his 39th by coming back to beat Aaron Krickstein in five sets to reach the quarterfinals in New York, a match replayed often during rain delays in more recent times. Connors, who later briefly coached Roddick, was at his rabble-rousing, crowd-goading best on that day 21 years ago; in one of those nice twists, Roddick was in New York then, a kid who was treated to tickets as a present to celebrate his ninth birthday.
“That was my first taste of live tennis, and it was that run,” Roddick recalled, “so that’s as good as it gets.”