Fri, Oct 17, 2003 - Page 23 News List

Roddick battles past Max Mirnyi

MADRID MASTERS Three unseeded Americans joined Roddick in the third round of the US$2.9 million tournament as Andy Roddick edges closer to world-No. 1 ranking

AP , MADRID, SPAIN

Swiss Roger Federer serves during his Masters Series match against Spain's Alex Corretja in Madrid, Wednesday. Roger Federer won 6-4, 6-3.

PHOTO: AFP

Andy Roddick began his quest for a third straight Tennis Masters Series title with a hard-fought 6-1, 6-7 (9) 7-5 win over Max Mirnyi in the second round of the Madrid Masters on Wednesday.

Top-seeded Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain was also extended to three sets in his opener, staving off two match points and coming from 2-5 in the third set to outlast South African veteran Wayne Ferreira 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (4).

Had Ferrero lost, Roddick would have become the new world No. 1 on Monday, according to the ATP.

Ferrero, supported by a raucous Spanish crowd and Real Madrid soccer stars David Beckham and Roberto Carlos watching from VIP boxes, never trailed in the tiebreaker and won after Ferreira hit a forehand wide and then another forehand long.

The Spaniard, who has topped the ATP Entry Rankings for the past six weeks, saved two match points when behind 15-40 and 3-5 in the third set. Ferreira netted the first, then double-faulted on the second.

Roddick, who lost his opening match in Madrid last year, looked sharp from the beginning, breaking Mirnyi in the first game on his fifth break point.

He broke the Belarussian two more times, wrapping up the set in just 26 minutes on the Rockodromo Arena's fast Greenset surface that suits the American's power game.

"I thought I played a great first set," Roddick said. "I don't know if I could have played a better one."

The second-seeded Roddick, who has one of the most powerful serves in the game, was never broken during the two-hour match.

In the second set, both players held their serve throughout, forcing the tiebreaker at 6-6. Mirnyi staved off two match points -- at 7-6 and 9-8 -- before winning the tiebreaker on his second set point.

"I felt like I was playing better than he was, but then he just snuck out the tiebreaker," Roddick said. "He made a lot of serves in the tiebreaker. I don't think I had an unforced error in the breaker, but I still lost it. That's definitely a credit to him."

Roddick earned the only service break of the decisive set to lead 5-4 after Mirnyi blew two straight volleys. Roddick moved to 40-15 in the next game, missed another match point when his forehand passer sailed wide and finally clinched the match with a second serve that Mirnyi failed to return.

"I was just trying to hang around in the third," Roddick said. "I got an opportunity. You know, I don't think he hit as good of a volley on break point as he would have wanted."

Roddick, the ATP Champions Race leader and second in the Entry Rankings behind Ferrero, captured consecutive Masters Series titles in Montreal and Cincinnati in August before winning his first US Open title.

"Even though I've accomplished a lot of my goals this year, I'm still in the hunt for No. 1," Roddick said. "That's definitely a big motivation for me."

Asked if it would be more important finishing the year No. 1 than winning the US Open this year, Roddick said: "If I had to choose one, give up an Open title, but finish No. 1, I'd probably choose to finish No. 2 with a U.S. Open title."

The 21-year-old American now has won 21 of his last 22 matches. He faces in-form Nicolas Massu of Chile in the third round.

Mirnyi was coming off a semifinal appearance last week in Vienna, Austria, where he lost to eventual champion Roger Federer, and a straight-set win over American James Blake on Tuesday.

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