Fifth-seeded Andy Roddick became the latest top player to be eliminated in the early rounds of the US$2.75 million Italian Open by an unheralded opponent.
The American lost 6-7 (6), 6-3, 6-4 in the second round Wednesday to 68th-ranked Martin Verkerk of the Netherlands, whose powerful serve and consistent baseline play was enough to take the bite out of Roddick's aggressive but mistake-filled play.
"I just played a sloppy game," Roddick said. "I made a couple of errors and after that he started playing really well."
In the third set, Verkerk broke Roddick's serve to go up 4-2. After the break, Roddick lost his cool and smashed a ball out of the stadium, much to the disapproval of a large crowd that had supported him enthusiastically up to that point.
"I like that about him," Verkerk said about Roddick's behavior. "He shows his emotions, tries to play with the crowd and to impress his opponent, to let you know you're playing Roddick.
"I tried to stay strong as well. Of course, I'm impressed by his game and achievements, but today I was fighting him man to man," he said.
In a matchup of the two players with the most aces this season, Verkerk notched 22 aces to Roddick's 13. The Dutch qualifier dictated the play with well placed ground strokes and good returns on the American's serve.
"I just wanted to keep him running, serve well, keep him on the backhand and stay strong myself because if he's confident and you let him dominate the point you can run and run and forget about it," Verkerk said.
The 24 year-old Dutchman was initially a soccer player who switched to tennis because he "didn't like that people were kicking my legs all the time."
The loss to Verkerk added Roddick to a list of eliminated top seeds that already included Andre Agassi and Gustavo Kuerten, who were defeated in the first round.