Friday, September 01, 2006

Federer Pulls Off New Trick, Straight Sets Henman

They don't call him The Maestro for nothing. Roger Federer continued to dominate in Friday's day session at the U.S. Open by defeating Tim Henman in straight sets 6-3, 6-4, 7-5 to move into the third round. The 25 year-old Swiss world number one is attempting to become the first man to three-peat in Flushing since Ivan Lendl (1985-87).

Though it was business as usual for the eight-time slam winner, he went to his new bag of tricks to unveil a shot that even had his opponent laughing and the capacity Ashe Stadium crowd stirring. During the middle of a point in the second set, Federer hit a ball between his legs surprising Henman, who volleyed it before the Open favorite ripped a backhand winner up the line to take the point. Both players managed to have a chuckle over it.

But ultimately, it was another win for Federer in the end.

"Rarely do you try this type of shot in a match," he explained to the AP. "In practice, it happens all the time. But to come and pull it off on center court, you have to make sure you're not doing something totally stupid or you don't look like an idiot."

"There's not a lot you can say at that stage, apart from laugh," a defeated Henman said.

And who could disagree at this point?

While Federer was doing his part to make the third round, fifth seeded American James Blake unveiled a surprise of his own by taking the court in an old Andre Agassi outfit from 1990 which included a bright pink shirt along with a white bandana. The atire didn't affect the affable Yonkers native's play one bit as he cruised to a 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (5) victory over Teimuraz Gabashvili.

"I just wanted to do it once," Blake said paying homage to his hero who got the best of him in an epic five set quarterfinal here last year. "I know Andre, how he probably doesn't want a ton of fanfare. Andre knows we all do care about him, we all appreciate everything he's done. I think the statement was made. Now it's back to business at hand."

"I wanted to do something just to show kind of how much he's meant to the sport. I'm happy it came on a day after that unbelievable night match last night when everyone has him, for sure, at the front of their minds," Blake pointed out.

"We're looking at his section of the draw, see when he plays next. That's the match we want to stay home for and maybe miss dinner for."

The bigger question at this point is how much the retiring 36 year-old two-time Open champion will have left in the tank when he takes the court for his third round match against German qualifier Benjamin Becker.

A day after another grinding win which had plenty of players and fans talking, Agassi didn't practice today and was given an anti-inflammatory injection for his stiff back in hopes that he could recover in time for what's scheduled to be a night match Saturday. However, with rain washing away tonight's night session which included Lindsay Davenport and a match between David Nalbandian and former Open winner Marat Safin, it's uncertain when Agassi could take the court. It's expected to rain most of Saturday which could cancel the entire Day Six session.

An extra day of rest could be what the doctor ordered for Agassi but also, if he were to advance to the Round of 16 where he could meet Andy Roddick, it would mean possibly having to go back-to-back days.

Also advancing to Round 3 was 2005 semifinalist Robby Ginepri. The 18th seeded American easily defeated Paul Goldstein 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 to setup an intriguing third round match against 14th seeded German Tommy Haas. Haas was a 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 winner over Raemon Sluiter.

Setting up another interesting third round clash was Fernando Gonzalez and Andy Murray. The 10th seeded Gonzalez eliminated Jan Hajek 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 while the 17th seeded Murray easily dispatched of Alessio Di Mauro 6-0, 6-1, 6-1.

Also advancing was seventh seeded Nikolay Davydenko 6-0 over Nicolas Mahut before he retired. Tomas Berdych (12) was a four set winner over Florian Mayer 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.

There were two upsets. American Vince Spadea took out veteran Jonas Bjorkman (29) 6-4, 7-6 (4), 6-2 and Frenchman Marc Gicquel ousted Juan Carlos Ferrero (16) 7-5, 6-3, 6-4.

Other men who made it to Round 3 included Gaston Gaudio (21), Dmitry Tursunov (23), Carlos Moya and Lukasz Kubot.

Henin-Hardenne Comes Back To Win In Three: Justine Henin-Hardenne had a bit of a scare but woke up in time unlike Martina Hingis to comeback and beat Ai Sugiyama (28) in three sets 4-6, 6-1, 6-0.

The second seeded Belgian who is one of the favorites jumped out to a doublebreak 4-1 lead in the opening set but then had trouble with her fiesty opponent and the windy conditions and suddenly dropped the final five games to lose the set before digging deep to take 12 of the final 13 games and move into a Round of 16 match-up against Israel's Shahar Peer.

"I didn't have the feeling that I was moving well at the time, and I lost a little bit my intensity," Henin-Hardenne admitted to reporters afterwards. "The conditions were pretty difficult. When I lost the first set, I understood I had no more choice than winning the next two, and so to be very focused on every point. Then I played very, very solid tennis at that time."

Meanwhile, Peer (21) ousted 14th seeded Francesca Schiavone in three tough sets 6-3, 6-7 (3), 7-6 (3).

Also moving into the Round of 16 was 2004 runner-up Elena Dementieva. The 24 year-old fourth seeded Russian posted a 7-5, 6-3 victory over countrywoman Vera Zvonareva (33) to setup a fourth round match against Aravane Rezai. The Frenchwoman upset Russian Maria Kirilenko (20) 6-3, 6-1.

Two other women who advanced to a fourth round showdown were 2004 winner Svetlana Kuznetsova and Jelena Jankovic. The sixth seeded Kuznetsova easily took care of countrywoman Anastassia Rodionova 6-3, 6-0. She'll next face 19th seeded Serbian Jankovic, who cameback from a set down to upset 17 year-old ninth seeded Czech Nicole Vaidisova 5-7, 6-3, 6-2.

Third round women's action continues Saturday weather permitting and features unseeded American Serena Williams taking on Ana Ivanovic (16). Davenport (10) also has to play Katarina Srebotnik (22) and Patty Schnyder (7) and Marion Bartoli (26) will also try to get their postponed match in.

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