No mercy from Sharapova as Blake struggles

Maria Sharapova produced another display of fearsome big hitting to roll into the US Open third round on Thursday, while top American hopes Andy Roddick and James Blake struggled to stay on course.

The 20-year-old Russian glamour girl opened her shoulders to blast past overmatched Australian Casey Dellaqua 6-1, 6-0 in just 51 minutes.

That makes it just two games lost in two rounds for the defending champion, who next takes on 18-year-old Polish hope Agnieszka Radwanska.

“I did a pretty good job of being solid, but it’s only going to get tougher from here on,” she said.

“I’m feeling really good and that’s the best part of being an athlete—just coming out and being healthy.”

On a hot and humid day that saw several players struggling with their fitness, the top half of the men’s draw reached the third round stage with all of the big names making it through.

Top seed Roger Federer, aiming to become the first man since Bill Tilden in the 1920s to win the US Open four times in a row, had already made it through by winning his second round tie late on Wednesday.

Joining him on Thursday was the man he defeated in last year’s final, Andy Roddick.

The American fifth seed dropped the first set against Argentina’s Jose Acasuso but won the next two as the South American struggled with a leg injury.

He failed to appear for the fourth set and Roddick moved on to a third round clash against former Australian Open champion Thomas Johansson, who outlasted France’s Arnaud Clement in a gruelling 6-4, 7-6 (7/4), 6-7 (9/11), 7-6 (7/1) tie.

“Even after the first set I wasn’t panicking. I just wanted to see if he could keep it up for an entire five-set match,” Roddick said.

“You never like winning matches like that, especially as I think I was starting to play well, but at the end of the day your goal is to go through.”

Also going through in Federer’s quarter of the draw were two other Americans—James Blake and Donald Young—but the way they did so against French opponents could not have been more different.

Fifth-seeded Blake had to deal with the unorthodox wizardry of wily veteran Fabrice Santoro but triumphed in the end 6-4, 3-6, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 in the last match of the night-session feature games to set up a third-round tie with Stefan Koubek of Austria.

It was the first time the New Yorker had won a five-set match in his career.

“I’ve had so many close ones here, but things have just not gone my way and finally they did,” Blake said.

“He makes everyone he plays angry. It’s really tough to put balls away against him and you never know what is coming.
You have to be ready for everything. There were one or two points that could have changed everything.”

In contrast, 18-year-old Donald Young did not even have to hit a ball as Richard Gasquet withdrew before the start with an illness.

The former world junior number one will play Spanish serve-and-volleyer Feliciano Lopez with the winner playing Federer, should he defeat giant American newcomer John Isner in Saturday’s highly anticipated clash.

The winner of the Roddick-Johansson tie will take on the winner of the match between Spain’s Fernando Verdasco and Thomas Berdych, who made it through in contrasting styles.

Verdasco despatched Frenchman Gilles Simon in straight sets 6-0, 6-4, 6-3, while Lopez staggered past Russia’s Igor Andreev in a 6-7 (3/7), 7-5, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/5) marathon.

In the second quarter of the draw, Britain’s Andy Murray blew hot and cold before reaching the third round with a strength-sapping 5-7, 6-3, 6-1, 4-6, 6-1 win over Swedish veteran Jonas Bjorkman.

The 20-year-old Scot is on the comeback trail after a summer wrecked by a bad wrist injury and he served up a typically erratic performance against Bjorkman, the oldest man in draw at 35.

He next takes on 31-year-old Korean Hyung-Taik Lee, who upset 14th seed Guillermo Canas 7-5, 7-5, 6-3.

Fourth seed Nikolay Davydenko, beset by questions about illegal gambling patterns in tennis, put his troubles aside to breeze past Germany’s Nicolas Kiefer 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 and next plays Nicolas Almagro of Spain.

There were wins also for Tommy Haas of Germany and Sebastien Grosjean of France and they will play each other for a slot in the final 16.

The bottom half of the women’s draw also reached the third round stage with no major upsets.

Sharapova apart, there were wins for three Russian threats—fourth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, sixth seed Anna Chavetadze and seventh seed Nadia Petrova.

Martina Hingis, who won her only US Open title as a 16 year-old 10 years ago, also moved on with a 6-2, 7-5 win over France’s Pauline Parmentier and two years into her comeback to the sport, she looked forward to mounting a real challenge from the weaker half of the draw.—AFP

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