Another major, another early exit for Roddick
Published: Monday, January 23, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 23, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
MELBOURNE, Australia - Andy Roddick thought he'd get it right at the Australian Open.
Stung by a first-round exit at the U.S. Open last August, Roddick skipped the Masters Cup in November to give himself extra weeks to peak for the season's first major.
What he did not figure on, while running miles and pumping iron, was a guy like Marcos Baghdatis stepping into serves and smacking returns past him with mesmerizing regularity.
Baghdatis, a live-wire former junior world champion from Cyprus, hit 63 winners in a 6-4, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 fourth-round win Sunday, advancing to a Grand Slam quarterfinal for the first time, where No. 7 Ivan Ljubicic awaits.
When one return winner zipped by him in the last set, Roddick turned to the crowd and asked: "What can I do?"
"It's disappointing when you feel like you've put in the work and there are no unanswered questions in my eyes as far as preparation," he said. "You're kind of left searching a bit - that's an uneasy feeling.
"I don't know if it's easy just to shrug off."
Roddick's loss left fourth-seeded David Nalbandian as the highest-ranked man in the bottom half of the draw, and a likely opponent for top-seeded Roger Federer in the final.
A draw that should have opened up instead slammed shut for Roddick.
"Most of (the losses) are big opportunities missed - I don't know how to grade one against another," he said. "They're all not fun when you're in this situation."
Nalbandian, who upset Federer in the Masters Cup final in Shanghai, made the Australian Open quarterfinals for the fourth consecutive year with a 6-3, 6-0, 2-6, 6-2 win over No. 16 Tommy Robredo.
He next faces 33-year-old Frenchman Fabrice Santoro, who reached the second week for the first time in 54 Grand Slam tournaments with a 6-4, 7-5, 7-5 win over No. 11 David Ferrer of Spain.
"I am still alive, reaching the first quarterfinal of my career," Santoro said. "I'm going to fight. I'll be there."
Top-seeded Lindsay Davenport set up a women's quarterfinal with Justine Henin-Hardenne, overcoming ankle pain and a second-set lapse to beat Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-2, 6-4.
Henin-Hardenne, the reigning French Open and 2004 Australian Open champion, advanced 6-0, 6-3 over Virginia Ruano Pascual.
WTA Championship winner Amelie Mauresmo committed only two unforced errors today in a 6-1, 6-1 victory over 16-year-old Nicole Vaidosova.
Fourth-seeded Maria Sharapova went down a break in the second set but recovered to win six of the last seven games in a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Daniela Hantuchova.
Sharapova will meet another Russian in the quarterfinals - Nadia Petrova, a 6-3, 6-1 winner over Elena Vesnina.
"I feel like I'm moving better and better," said Sharapova, who was sidelined for two months with a misdiagnosed rib dislocation. "I think I can improve a lot, but I want to save the best for last."
Baghdatis gave his best to Roddick, swinging at everything and sparking celebrations in Cyprus, where he said people dunked themselves in downtown fountains.
"I'm just in my own world and playing great tennis," said Baghdatis, who is ranked 54th. "I think it's one of the best matches of my life."
The hyperactive Baghdatis, with his idiosyncratic between-the-legs ball bounce before each serve and the heavily stubbled face, has been embraced by Melbourne.
Home to generations of Greek immigrants, the southern Australian port city has switched allegiances from Mark Philippoussis to Baghdatis, who has dozens of relatives Down Under.
Many of them were on center court, wearing blue and white clothes, football scarves, chanting between points and waving Greek and Cypriot flags.
"To beat Andy in Rod Laver Arena in front of I don't know how many people ... it's a big experience," said 20-year-old Baghdatis, who lost in the fourth round last year to Federer and won a junior title in Australia in 2003.
Roddick must be getting tired of former junior world champions. He was upset by 2001 world junior champion Gilles Muller in New York last August. Between his breakthrough win at the 2003 U.S. Open and his loss to Muller, Roddick made at least the quarterfinals at every major expect the French Open.
He didn't think he'd played too badly. He won more points than Baghdatis - 117-116.
"I think I would have beaten most people today but credit where it's due, he played a very good match," Roddick said. "The shots he was able to come up with were very good. I was surprised that he was able to lean in and hit some of the backhands. ... I haven't seen that before."
It's only the second time since the Australian Open moved permanently to Melbourne Park in 1988 that no American men are in the quarterfinals - the last was in 2002, when Thomas Johansson won the title.
Roddick bristled at the suggestion that was a reflection of American tennis.
"You guys are always concerned, aren't you?" Roddick snapped at reporters. "I mean, if we're playing well at the moment, then it's 'Who's next?' If we're not playing well at the time, it's 'Who's now?"'
Robby Ginepri, a semifinalist at the U.S. Open, and Taylor Dent lost in the first round. James Blake went out in the third. Andre Agassi missed the tournament due to a lingering ankle injury
"I think we'll rebound," Roddick said. "I think you'll see Robby and James and all those guys have career years this year - I see that happening."
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