By Chris Starrs, special to EmiratesUSOpenSeries.com
ATLANTA – Although he insisted otherwise, it appeared that Andy Roddick didn’t want to sit through a protracted rain delay Friday evening as he made quick work of Michael Russell 6-3, 6-4 to advance to the semifinals of the BB&T Atlanta Open.
"I didn’t think about (the weather) at all," said Roddick, who earned his first tournament victory as a professional in Atlanta in 2001.
The fourth seed in the tournament, Roddick-- currently ranked 27th in the world -- needed but 72 minutes to eliminate Russell, who at 34 was the oldest player in the tournament.
A dynamic service game paved the way for Roddick’s victory. Playing in his first tournament since Wimbledon, he won 42 of 51 service points (82 percent), recorded 12 aces and was 72 percent on his first serve.
"I felt good and the hot weather helps it," he said. "It gives me a different option – you can go kick, slices, everything works in this hot weather. I felt like I could mix speeds pretty accurately and I compare it to pitching a good ballgame – I felt like I could throw any pitch for a strike, if that makes sense."
The veteran right-hander will meet fellow Olympian (and Olympics doubles partner) John Isner in today’s semis.
"If I could take the serving stats from (Friday) and apply them to any match, I’d sign that contract right now," said Roddick, who played before Isner on Friday evening. "If I do play Isner, we’re both going to have to take care of our serves. (Break) chances will be few and far in between out there and we both enjoy being able to get our serve up. It’s not so much something you want to do, but something you have to do."
Roddick jumped out to a 2-1 edge in a first set where neither player managed a point off the other’s serve through the first six games. He broke Russell to go up 5-3 and earned set point with his seventh ace. Although he played catch-up throughout much of the second set, Roddick broke Russell at 5-4 and moments later captured the match.
With the Olympic Games just a week away, Roddick said he was focused on Atlanta and not London.
"I’m not good about playing a tournament and thinking about a tournament a week away," he said. "I don’t really work like that. If you’re somewhere, you’re there to play that tournament and when that’s finished, then you work your way to the next focus."
Ranked 96th in the world, Russell reached the quarterfinals with a first round victory over Alex Kuznetsov (2-6, 6-4, 7-5 (4)) and a second-round upset over No. 5 seed Kevin Anderson.
Isner survives rain delay, Sock
In reaching his third consecutive Atlanta Open semifinal, top-seeded John Isner had to work into the early morning hours Saturday to dispatch wildcard entry Jack Sock, 7-6 (7), 6-4.
Isner, ranked 11th in the world, jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the first set but an hour-long rain delay affected his game against Sock, who was playing in his first ATP Tour quarterfinal.
"I knew it could be a tough match," said Isner, who won the championship in Newport last weekend and is now riding a seven-match winning streak. "I was up 4-1 and came out really flat after the rain delay and that made the set anybody’s set. I think had it not rained, I could have won that set a little easier. (The delay) took a little bit out of me. I had to focus so hard to try to win that set because I let it slip away a little bit."
Sock, ranked 362nd in the world, sent the first set into a tiebreaker after a 6-6 game that lasted 13 minutes. The outcome might have been much different had the 19-year-old Sock not double-faulted twice in the tiebreaker.
"The first set was really long once (Sock) got back in it," said Isner, noting the match took 2:14 to complete. "We had a long game at 6-5 and a long tiebreaker. For a two-set match it was a little longer than normal."
Isner was admittedly not sharp in the second set with three aces and 62 percent on first serves, but he was able to break Sock to go ahead 5-4 and didn’t allow a point in the deciding game. The former All-America selection from the University of Georgia – who had the crowd behind him – lauded his opponent, who recently returned to competition after abdominal surgery in March.
"I was a little bit frustrated (in the second set) and I wasn’t real happy with how I ended that first set, even though I won it," he said. "That’s something I could have done better for sure, but it was a combination of me coming out flat and he picked his game up, too. He’s got a big game. He hits the ball huge and has a real live arm. He’s only going to keep getting better. He’s got a lot of good things ahead of him."
Isner said he expects a battle later today when he squares off against his Olympic teammate Andy Roddick.
"It’s going to be tough," he said. "(Roddick is) playing very well. He’s won nine of his last 10 matches and I’ve won seven in a row, so we’re both playing pretty well and we both don’t want to lose. It’s going to be a very tough match and hopefully I can turn around and get ready for it."
Soeda, Muller advance to semis
Earlier on Friday, No. 8 seed Go Soeda quickly dispatched third-seeded Kei Nishikori 6-2, 6-1 in an historic match that pitted Japanese competitors for the first time in an ATP World Tour quarterfinal. Also on Friday, Gilles Muller bested Matthew Ebden 6-4, 6-4 to earn his first semifinal berth since last September.
Ranked 54th in the world, Soeda – who will team with Nishikori at the Olympics and played with him in Davis Cup competition – reached his second tour-level semifinal and today will face Muller, who advanced to the quarters when his second-round opponent Mardy Fish (the two-time defending Atlanta Open champion) retired after injuring his ankle in their match on Thursday.