Jack Sock, a 19-year-old rising star, was one of the Americans who advanced Thursday at the U.S. Open, where Sock announced his arrival on the same day Andy Roddick announced his retirement.
NEW YORK — Andy Roddick's impending departure was by far the biggest news of Day 4 at the year's last major tournament, overshadowing some otherwise noteworthy on-court developments in the afternoon.
There was the loss by fifth-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the 2008 Australian Open runner-up, against a man ranked 52nd.
And there was a spate of victories by American men, two who are Roddick's contemporaries and good pals (32-year-old James Blake and 30-year-old Mardy Fish), and two who have been viewed as possible successors as the best the country has to offer in the sport (19-year-old Jack Sock and 24-year-old Sam Querrey).
Sock stealing show
After waiting out a delay caused by an ill spectator, 19-year-old Jack Sock of Lincoln, Neb., served out a 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 victory over 88th-ranked Flavio Cipolla of Italy on Thursday in the second round of the U.S. Open.
The 248th-ranked Sock, a wild-card entry, got to the third round at a Grand Slam tournament in singles for the first time. Next up is a meeting with No. 11 Nicolas Almagro of Spain, a 6-3, 5-7, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 winner against Philipp Petzschner.
Sock teamed with Melanie Oudin of the U.S. to win the mixed doubles title at Flushing Meadows a year ago.
Against Cipolla, Sock saved 12 of 13 break points he faced, while converting all six he earned on Cipolla's serve.
Federer wins easily
His opponent was pretty sure he had put the lob out of Roger Federer's reach.
Federer extended his body, reached up to his backhand side and angled it off for a winner.
That was one of 32 shots Federer won from the net Thursday night in what, at times, looked like a practice match for the 17-time Grand Slam champion — a 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 victory over No. 83 Bjorn Phau of Germany, a player who beat Federer the first time they met, what seems like a lifetime ago, back in 1999.
"I don't think it was a matter of him going more to the net or not," Phau said. "The way he played today, he was really focused, really playing well, actually."
Top-seeded Federer needed only 90 minutes to close out the match. He finished with 44 winners to 16 for his overmatched opponent and also with 15 aces, many of them not so much of the overpowering sort, but acutely angled shots Phau simply couldn't reach. None of this was too unusual considering it was only the second round and Federer is rarely tested before the second week at Flushing Meadows.
But in a different twist, he won nine more points from the net than from the baseline — in part because Phau, with his array of tricky slice and drop shots, was pulling him to the net, and in part because Federer was forcing the issue and trying to end points early.
"I like coming forward when I am up," Federer said. "Just try maintaining that. And if things don't work out that way, you can always play it safe again."
Like everything else at Flushing Meadows on this day, Federer's win was overshadowed by Andy Roddick, who announced he'd be retiring after the tournament. Roddick, who dropped the surprise on his 30th birthday, said it was getting harder and harder to keep the tank full at that age — a reality the 31-year-old Federer said "is not an easy one to face."
"I guess you've got to have that balance between fire and being relaxed and knowing where you are in your life," Federer said.
He has a much better handle on that than in the late-90s, when he was a struggling teenager and Phau was one of his contemporaries.
"I never believed at that moment that I was going to become such a great player," Federer said. "I was so weak back then. It was just different times."
No need to remind Phau, who said there was no way to realistically analyze the way he played on a packed night in Arthur Ashe Stadium.
"It's tough to say because those guys always play on courts like this," Phau said. "For him, it's normal. For me, it's something special."
Misty-eyed about the retirements of her fellow tennis stars, Serena Williams finds even more resolve to keep playing long past age 30.
She still has the fire, no doubt, frustrated Thursday by some sloppy play in what nonetheless was a straight-set win in the second round of the U.S. Open.
The 14-time Grand Slam champion beat old nemesis Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez 6-2, 6-4. Down a break early in the second set, Williams rallied for the comfortable victory.
On Wednesday, Kim Clijsters played her final singles match when she lost at the Open. A day later, while Williams was on court, fellow American Andy Roddick said he would call it a career after his run here ended.
Williams turns 31 on Sept. 26, though she certainly isn't fielding the sort of retirement questions Roddick frequently faced after her titles at Wimbledon and the Olympics this summer.
"It makes me want to stay more," Williams said. "Losing Kim was so hard. I saw her yesterday. I just hugged her. My eyes got watery. ... I didn't expect that reaction."
On Thursday, the fourth-seeded Williams overcame six double-faults and 24 unforced errors — she had 32 winners to five for Martinez Sanchez.
"I wasn't really happy with the way I was playing," Williams said. "I just wasn't happy out there today in general. I think I woke up on the wrong side of the bed."
She and Martinez Sanchez have a bit of a history. In the 2009 French Open third round, Williams hit a ball she was sure went off Martinez Sanchez's arm, then said the Spaniard cheated by not acknowledging it.
Martinez Sanchez has been ranked as high as 19th but is at No. 108 after struggling with a right thigh injury this year.
Williams next faces 42nd-ranked Russian Ekaterina Makarova, who beat her in the round of 16 at the Australian Open this year.
Williams rolled her ankle during her doubles match with sister Venus on Wednesday, but said she was fine after treatment.
As Williams summed it up: "Story of my ankle life."
No. 5 Tsonga is out:
His match slipping away, Jo Wilfried-Tsonga tried to win a point with a delicate drop volley.
His opponent, Martin Klizan, got there and punched a lob over Tsonga's head.
Tsonga jogged back, barely turned around and gave a halfhearted swat at the ball, which never got more than about 2 feet off the ground before landing harmlessly in the net.
That sequence pretty much summed up the day for the No. 5 Frenchman, who on Thursday became the highest-seeded player to exit at the U.S. Open. He lost 6-4, 1-6, 6-1, 6-3 to the 52nd-ranked Klizan. It's the first time Tsonga has failed to make the third round of a Grand Slam tournament he's played since 2007.
"I'm not a machine," Tsonga said. "Sometimes I'm tired, sometimes not. Sometimes in good shape, sometimes not."
Pretty much everything about this match fell in the "not" category, meaning if someone other than Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic or Andy Murray is going to shock the tennis world and win this tournament, it will not be the 27-year-old Frenchman.
Tsonga has always been honest in assessing the state of his game — and his chances — and he has made headlines back home by saying a Frenchman is nowhere near the cusp of winning the French Open. Before play started at Flushing Meadows this year, he said if he were a betting man, he wouldn't wager on France at the U.S. Open either.
He cashed it in less than a week into the tournament against his Slovak opponent, whose first-ever match against a top-10 player (No. 10 John Isner) and first-ever win against a top-50 opponent (No. 49 Benoit Paire) each came only a week ago in Winston-Salem.
"For me, it's no different if there's a No. 5 player or a No. 100 player," Klizan said. "It doesn't matter. I want to play a good game every match. But I had no pressure. If I lose, then I lose."
At times, it looked as if Tsonga felt the same way.
He veered from seemingly hitting every ball as hard as he could, to barely moving his feet and reaching for balls he'd normally get to with ease. He lost 10 of 11 games to fall down by a set and behind 4-0 in the fourth, then rallied briefly to get to 4-3.
Serving to stay in the match down 5-3 and deuce, he spun in a second serve at 86 mph, which Klizan turned on for an easy forehand winner. On match point, Tsonga tried to serve and volley, but the return came at him low and Tsonga slid the racket in front of him and knocked the shot two feet wide.
Before he left the court a few minutes later, he handed his racket to a kid in the stands.
Later, he was asked more than once if he was injured. No.
If he should consider taking more time off. No.
If he's just, plain exhausted from the long, grueling season that included a 25-23 third-set victory over Milos Raonic in the second round of the London Olympics. After all, Federer and Djokovic pick their spots.
"I have to play because I'm not Federer, not Djokovic," Tsonga said. "And if I want to keep my ranking and not have to play these guys in the round of 16, I have to play these tournaments."