2011 us open

The Return of Andy Roddick

Look who’s in the quarters.

It didn’t rain a drop during the day session at the U.S. Open yesterday, unlike the past two days of cancellations, but there were still delays. This time, however, the setbacks conveniently lead to a brilliant opportunity for a handful of the day’s attendees. With fans standing on bleachers and other courts just to get a glimpse, Andy Roddick finally completed his Round of Sixteen match on a court that he hasn’t set foot on since he was a juniors player in 1999.

Roddick’s match against David Ferrer started on Wednesday on Louis Armstrong Stadium — already the smallest court the American had played on in Flushing in years  — but it was cancelled due to rain. When they resumed on Thursday, they discovered that the moisture had created a pocket of water underneath the surface of the court. While the staff seemed flummoxed about how to fix it, an agitated Roddick pushed for them to move the match to whatever court was currently available. And so, the former world number one and Grand Slam champion at the U.S. Open was put on Court Thirteen, a space so small that it only seats a couple hundred people, most of whom are within a stone’s throw of the celebrated athlete. There wasn’t even a camera set up for the court yet when they made the decision.

Arthur Ashe Stadium (the 20,000-seater where Roddick normally plays) looms above Court Thirteen, and its booming music often provided a soundtrack for the occasionally tight matchup between the American and the Spaniard. On a neighboring court, spectators ignored the hosted doubles match and crowded at the top to look over. Elsewhere, a man actually tried to scale a fence in the hopes of finding a place to perch. 

Roddick later commented on the vastly different atmosphere. “We had some Van Morrisson wannabe playing music in the courtyard, so we had a ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ soundtrack for about two games there,” he joked. “A couple people wanted to do commentary from the service line, I didn’t think that was gonna work. [But] I’d rather play a smaller court and have it packed than play a bigger court and have it a quarter full.”

He did indeed seem appreciative of the crowd after he won in the fourth set, to the thunderous tune of fans stomping their feet. Roddick doubled over in elated relief, then walked the circumference of the court to slap everyone’s hand. Amid frustrating rain delays, arguments with organizers, and weird pockets of water, Roddick managed to greatly improve upon last year’s dismal second-round exit by booking a spot in the quarterfinals. (And whoever managed to snag a seat at Court 13 scored yet another invaluable experience when top-ranked Caroline Wozniacki’s match against Andrea Petkovic was also moved there.)

In addition to the musical court assignments, the schedule for the rest of the tournament has been shuffled around in an attempt to satisfy the concerns of players who felt they were at a disadvantage because of the delays. The two remaining men’s quarterfinals will play today — Roddick versus Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray versus John Isner — and then both the men’s and women’s semifinals will take place on Saturday. The women will play their semis during the night session, however, which is a curious choice since they must then turnaround and play their final the following afternoon, less than 24 hours later.

And for a fourth year in a row, the men’s final will take place on Monday. Let’s just hope that, this year, CBS doesn’t abruptly dump the feed onto another channel in order to show reruns of “Two and a Half Men.”

The Return of Andy Roddick