Andy Roddick mowed down Fernando Verdasco at the Queen’s Club championships on Friday to set up a semi-final showdown against home favourite Andy Murray.
The all-action American, so often the nearly-man at Wimbledon, cranked up his serve, ripped his forehands and even got in some useful ‘rain-delay’ practise during a 6-2 6-2 defeat of off-key Spaniard Verdasco.
Second seed Murray had it even easier, though, as his quarter-final opponent Marin Cilic withdrew with an ankle injury shortly before they were due on court.
Heavy rain meant the organisers had to rip-up the schedule but there was time for British wildcard James Ward to floor another big name, following up his second round win over Swiss fourth seed Stanislas Wawrinka to complete another impressive victory over defending champion Sam Querrey.
London cabbie’s son Ward, the world number 216, has recently recruited an Argentine cage fighter in an attempt to boost his career and he showed plenty of killer instinct to beat the American 13th seed 3-6 6-3 6-4.
The match had been poised at one set all overnight and the 24-year-old Ward, weather permitting, was due to return later for a quarter-final against Frenchman Adrian Mannarino.
World number one Rafa Nadal managed just two points in his quarter-final against French fifth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga before yet another rain delay halted proceedings.
Third seed Roddick, bidding for a record fifth title at the traditional Wimbledon warm-up event that has a roll of honour featuring some of the greats of tennis, loves the all-too-brief grasscourt season.
After a first-round bye he then came through a high-quality battle with Feliciano Lopez, dispatched big-serving South African Kevin Anderson with ease and on Friday proved a class above Verdasco whose trusty forehand misfired repeatedly.
“That’s my first rain delay out of the way,” a perspiring Roddick said told a BBC courtside interviewer who barely mentioned his match, but quizzed him on how he had occupied himself in the lengthy break and his current musical tastes.
“I played Angry Birds,” Roddick fired back to laughs from the crowd before explaining that he had become fascinated with cult British group The Wurzels and their comic hit Combine Harvester.
The American former world no 1 can now look forward to the more serious business of a meeting with Murray, hoping for a repeat of their previous meeting when he rocked the Scot in the semi-finals of Wimbledon in 2009 before losing to Roger Federer for the third time in the final.
With all the stopping and starting British number two Ward, who usually competes on the second-tier Challenger Circuit, took his chance to step into the limelight.
The Londoner again had Diego Visotzky at courtside, the mixed martial arts (MMA) cage fighter he hired as a fitness trainer three months ago in an attempt to improve his ranking.
His performances so far suggest his unusual choice of fitness trainer is having a beneficial effect.
“Sometimes I do make him wrestle, it’s part of the mental conditioning thing,” the sturdy Visotzky said on Friday as Ward prepared for his surprise quarter-final.
“It’s conditioning so I let him beat me sometimes. If I wanted to, maybe I could kill him!”
Motivation, if any were needed, for Ward to continue punching above his weight throughout the grasscourt season. — Reuters