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Roddick gets silent treatment in ouster

A straight-set loss to Rafael Nadal left Andy Roddick feeling helpless. A straight-set loss to Rafael Nadal left Andy Roddick feeling helpless. (Mike Segar/Reuters)
By Karen Crouse
The New York Times / September 10, 2011

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NEW YORK - For the better part of a decade, Arthur Ashe Stadium has been Andy Roddick’s den away from home, where he regularly gathers with 23,000 friends and countrymen to enjoy a communal experience he cannot find anywhere else.

Yesterday, Roddick played for the 45th time at Ashe, the US Open’s marquee stage, and experienced a sensation that was new and discomfiting: a kind of quiet more often associated with the New York Public Library than the tennis world’s biggest cocktail mixer.

So thoroughly was Roddick dominated by Rafael Nadal, the defending champion, in a 6-2, 6-1, 6-3 quarterfinal loss, that neither he nor the crowd knew how to react when it was mercifully over in 1 hour, 53 minutes.

“It’s a bad feeling,’’ Roddick said. “You feel helpless. I think you’d rather be booed than have silence.’’

It was Nadal’s seventh victory in 10 matches against Roddick and it came before a crowd that included the first lady, Michelle Obama. The last time Nadal and Roddick met at the Open, Roddick was the defending champion. It was 2004, and Roddick dispatched Nadal, 6-0, 6-3, 6-4 in the second round.

Since then, Nadal has won 10 Grand Slam singles titles and been a runner-up four times, while Roddick has appeared in three Grand Slam finals, the last at Wimbledon in 2009.

The past two years Roddick has battled injuries, most recently a torn oblique muscle that sidelined him for most of this summer’s hard-court season. His inspired play Thursday from the baseline and at the net in his fourth-round victory against David Ferrer made people believe Roddick had another big victory or two left in him.

Nadal, who finished with 35 winners against 13 unforced errors, quickly buried those thoughts. In the opening game, Roddick served and found his way to the net on the first three points. He won the first with a backhand volley, struck an errant volley on the second and was passed by a wicked forehand on the third.

Roddick’s serve was soon broken, and not for the only time. He lost six his service games, in large part because he put 59 percent of his first serves in play and won only 9 of the 28 points on his second serve.

Several times Roddick hit stinging forehands or stab volleys that looked like winners, only to see Nadal swoop in and send a reply that was even better. Nadal finished with 22 forehand winners to Roddick’s zero.

Roddick groaned when he heard that statistic. There was a time when he could hit forehand winners in his sleep, but he was grounded by the fatigue he felt yesterday. It was the cumulative effect, he said, of his 2-hour-39-minute effort against Ferrer and his three earlier matches.

“You know how tough it is to play best-of-five two days in a row,’’ Nadal said, “and he played against very difficult opponent like David yesterday.’’

In the third set, Roddick twice received medical treatment for his left thigh, which he said was tight. As poorly as he felt physically, mentally, and emotionally, Roddick said it never crossed his mind to add his name to the tournament’s record number of retirements.

“I have seen a lot of guys this week just kind of bag it,’’ he said. “Not once while I was out there was I worried that I might do damage for three and four weeks down the line, so therefore you play till the end in my mind.’’

By the time Roddick took the court, he was in a familiar position: the last American man standing. In the day’s first quarterfinal, countryman John Isner lost to the No. 4 seed, Andy Murray, 7-5, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7-2).

Isner, 26, was appearing in his first Grand Slam quarterfinal, while Murray, 24, became the seventh man in the Open era to win a place in the semifinals in all four Grand Slams in a year. At 6 feet 9 inches, Isner calls to mind a giraffe, but he played like a possum, appearing dead after two sets before charging back to give Murray a scare.

“Somewhere along in that third set I started to get more comfortable,’’ Isner said, “and I started playing better.’’

Murray, the 2008 runner-up, dictated the points in the tie breaker, with aggressive crosscourt shots, one of his fastest serves - 130 miles per hour - and a backhand volley winner. Isner, the tournament leader in aces with 94, betrayed his nerves with a double fault, on a 120-m.p.h. second serve, when trailing, 2-1, and a botched forehand volley at 5-2.

“I missed that gimme volley,’’ Isner said. “That was bad. All I had to do was put it in the court because he was off the court, and I took my eyes off of it.’’

Isner has better days ahead while Roddick, after a decade-long reign there, recently fell out. There will be other Opens for Isner, but as Roddick gave the crowd a farewell wave, there was a palpable gloom. It was as if the fans weren’t sure if they had seen Roddick at his best, his worst or for the last time.

“That’s one of the most disconcerting things,’’ Roddick said. “It’s almost like you have a guilt complex and you want them to know you’re trying your best. You don’t always feel like that’s getting through and I don’t like that feeling.’’