Andy Roddick set up a blockbuster fourth-round clash against Juan Martin Del Potro at the US Open as he kept the fat lady at bay for at least a couple more days.
The American’s announcement on Thursday that this would be his last tournament has put a completely different spin on his matches and he was roared on by the Arthur Ashe crowd on Sunday as he defeated Italy’s Fabio Fognini 7-5 7-6 (7/1) 4-6 6-4.
Roddick was playing his 50th match on Flushing Meadows’ main stage, more than any other player except Roger Federer, and although he had a slight wobble in the third set, was always in control.
The 30-year-old, who again looked emotional as he savoured the applause, said: “This whole process, I’m trying not to overthink it.
“I’m trying to be I guess as simplistic as possible. I’m trying to enjoy the process. And, when I get out there, trying to compete also.
“I’ve been surprised by the support. I thought inside our world it would be something, but I don’t know that I expected all of this and the crowd to react the way it has. It’s been a special experience for me.
“I’ve been walking around with a smile on my face for three days. You’re smiling, humming, whistling, walking around, and you feel pretty good about it.
“All of a sudden you have to say goodbye to something. It’s like this gut-check moment. It’s these extreme emotions from five minutes to the next five minutes. You think you know what’s going on, but I don’t think there’s any way to prepare yourself for it.”
It was an entertaining match for the packed crowd to lap up, in particular a point in the final set when Fognini almost scored with a brilliant through-the-legs shot only for Roddick to pull out a volley winner at full stretch.
The American said: “That’s about as cleanly as you can hit a between-the-legs passing shot. He hit the thing from (New) Jersey and almost won the point. That was fun.”
If Roddick is to keep the run going, though, he will have to really roll back the years.
Del Potro, the champion in 2009, is the only man to break the grand slam domination of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in the last 30 tournaments and the seventh seed was a straight-sets winner on Sunday over fellow Argentinian Leonardo Mayer.
Roddick said: “He’s a tough match-up for anybody because he hits such a big ball. I’m going to have to serve well, kind of try to rush him a little bit.
“When he gets into a groove and has time, he’ll put a hurt on the ball. I’ll go out and give it a go. I’m not really planning anything. I’m kind of winging this thing as I go.”
Fourth seed David Ferrer battled his way past Lleyton Hewitt while defending champion Novak Djokovic continued his New York stroll.
The second seed has looked in fine form at Flushing Meadows and needed only an hour and 37 minutes to defeat Frenchman Julien Benneteau, the man who nearly beat Federer at Wimbledon this year, 6-3 6-2 6-2.
Djokovic, who hit 41 winners and has lost only 14 games in three matches, said: “He’s a quality player and has a lot of variety in his game, so I came to the match knowing that I have to start very strong.”
Ferrer and Hewitt are possibly the game’s two grittiest competitors and it was not a surprise that their match lasted for more than three hours.
Hewitt, the 2001 champion, needed a wild card to get into the tournament as he is still working his way back from foot surgery, but has started to rediscover some of his old form.
The Australian had five set points in the first set but could not take any of them and, although he levelled at one-set all, he rather ran out of steam in the third and fourth as Ferrer won 7-6 (11/9) 4-6 6-3 6-0.
Hewitt will now turn his attention to Australia’s Davis Cup World Group play-off against Germany later this month.
The 31-year-old said: “I’m pretty happy. It takes another quality player to beat me again. There are a lot of positives. Even to come out today, I thought my ball striking was probably better than it was in the first two matches.”
Ferrer next meets French 13th seed Richard Gasquet, who ended the run of American wild card Steve Johnson in straight sets, while Djokovic will play 18th seed Stanislas Wawrinka, a surprisingly easy winner over Alexandr Dolgopolov.
Eighth seed Janko Tipsarevic is also through to the fourth round after a 6-4 6-3 7-5 victory over Slovenia’s Grega Zemlja.