If it was repetition Andy Roddick was looking for in his opening match at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic, he got a hefty dose Tuesday night against Slovenian qualifier Grega Zemjla, a human-backboard of a player who reveled in sending back nearly every ball blasted his way.
But to no one’s surprise, Roddick prevailed in a match marked by surprisingly long rallies, proving the more versatile ball-striker and effective server in advancing to the tournament’s third round, 6-4, 6-4.
Roddick has won Washington’s hard-court classic three times in nine attempts. And, at 27, he’d like nothing more than to add a fourth Legg Mason title to his rsumâ and the confidence and momentum that would represent – heading into the season’s final major, the U.S. Open, after a disappointing fourth-round exit at Wimbledon.
It was Roddick’s first hard-court match since losing to fellow American and good friend Mardy Fish in the semifinals at Atlanta two weeks ago. And Roddick proclaimed himself fit and pleased in a brief on-court interview afterward, devoting most of his remarks to thanking Washington tennis fans for their support and acknowledging Bob and Mike Bryan’s record-setting 62nd doubles titles.
“Every time I come back here I get such great support,” Roddick told a cheering crowd at the Williams H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center. “I thank you all for that. It’s a pleasure to be back.”
Against the 23-year-old Slovenian ranked 128th in the world, Roddick got the critical break of serve in the fifth game of the opening set.
The second set stayed on serve until the seventh game, with Zemlja netting a high backhand to give Roddick the opening. On the next point, Roddick patiently swapped shots of varying pace and trajectory, almost lulling his opponent to sleep, and then ripping a forehand crosscourt beyond his reach. He served out the match from there without surrendering a point on his serve.
Though Zemlja finished with more aces (eight to Roddick’s four), Roddick never faced a break point and won 90 percent of the point when landing his first serve.
Earlier Tuesday, Fish advanced to the third round with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over the streaky and ultimately self-destructing Victor Troicki of Serbia.
For much of his tennis career, Fish has been known largely as Roddick’s high-school buddy from Florida’s Boca Prep and another in a series of gifted American players whose talent never seemed to translate to consistent results.
Through the first decade of his pro career, Fish won a total of three ATP tournaments.