Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
NEW YORK — Giovanni Auricchio of Brazil found himself high up in the Court 13 stands on a hot and humid Thursday afternoon at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
Thanks to Mother Nature and a water bubble issue on the court in Louis Armstrong Stadium, Auricchio got an up-close look as No. 21 Andy Roddick knocked out No. 5 David Ferrer, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, in a fourth-round match that set up a quarterfinal showdown Friday with defending champion Rafael Nadal.
“Amazing, amazing,” Auricchio told SNY.tv. “This was supposed to be in [Louis Armstrong] Stadium and having the match here in Court 13 was awesome. You’re so close to the players, you know? So nice.”
In the other fourth-round matches, No. 4 Andy Murray eliminated 84th-ranked Donald Young of the United States 6-2, 6-3, 6-3 in the Grandstand and No. 28 John Isner got past No. 12 Gilles Simon of France 7-6 (2), 3-6, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (4). Murray and Isner will hook up in the early quarterfinal Friday beginning at noon.
Roddick, the 2003 Open champ, hadn’t played outside Arthur Ashe Stadium in nine years, and last played on the 582-capacity Court 13 in 1999 when he lost in the first round of juniors.
“You know, I didn’t think Court 13 was in my future, but I probably could have promised you if it ever came to that I was just going to call it quits,” he said, drawing laughter from reporters. “But extenuating circumstances, I guess.”
He added: “I’d rather play a smaller court and have it packed than playing a bigger court and have it a quarter full. I think the atmosphere is always better than that.”
The intimate court was so overcrowded, fans scaled fences and peered in from the top of nearby Court 11. Brooklyn Decker, Roddick’s wife, scored a front-row seat, but Roddick booted two journalists from a bench on Court 13 — during the match.
“We had some Van Morrison wannabe playing music in the courtyard, so we had a Brown Eyed Girl soundtrack for about two games there,” Roddick joked.
“There was a guy scaling the fence in the back for a second. [Ferrer] was about to serve and I saw a guy climbing up the fence.
“You know, a couple people wanted to do commentary from the service line. I didn’t think that was gonna work.”
The Roddick-Ferrer match was one of four men’s fourth-round matches in the bottom half of the bracket suspended Wednesday due to rain.
Yet after playing two games in Armstrong Thursday, the match between Roddick and Ferrer was delayed because Roddick became upset about an air bubble behind one of the baselines.
“I looked down at one point and I saw like kind of like a little crack, and it had probably seven or eight nickel-sized water drops on it, but it looked too perfectly placed,” Roddick said. “It almost looked like someone almost pored a little bit of water out.
“So I dried it off, played the next game, went back to play the point, and saw it was there again. That’s when I realized that we had a problem.”
After the players took a break while tournament officials looked at the bubble, Roddick said on court that he was “baffled” that they were called out again because the spot was still wet.
“I’m really starting to get pissed off,” Roddick was overheard telling tournament referee Brian Earley. “How hard is it to not see water?”
Then, growing increasingly frustrated, he told Earley, “We just want to play.”
“I understand the aggression of Andy, no, because, you know, we stopped one time and the referee talked to us,” Ferrer said. “He say, Come back in 15 minutes.
“We went to the court, and when we saw the court, it was no good, the court, no?”
At that point, Earley, under intense pressure to get the fourth-round matches completed Thursday to avoid a Monday final, offered Roddick and Ferrer the option of playing on Court 13.
The Open later announced that there would be no further play on Armstrong until the situation was “rectified.”
When the announcement went out that Roddick and Ferrer were moving, fans began to scurry across the grounds to get a good seat.
After everyone settled in with Roddick leading 4-2 in the first set, the American continued to look strong in taking the first two sets but then lost the third. Ferrer was up 3-2, 40-15 in the fourth and looked to be on his way to forcing a fifth set.
But Roddick broke to tie it at 3-all and then held for 4-3.
With Ferrer serving at 15-30, Roddick hit a drop shot that Ferrer charged hard but could not reach, bringing them to break point.
Roddick closed it out with a forehand winner down the line for the break and then held serve easily. Afterward, he gave his racquet to a woman in the stands before leaving the court.
As befitting the oddity of the situation, Ferrer walked off the court wearing only his socks, no sneakers.
“Yeah, because I was a little bit pain in my foots and the shoes was broken,” Ferrer said.
Now Roddick must face Nadal, who rebounded from an 0-3 deficit Wednesday to take care of Muller in straight sets.
Nadal leads Roddick, 6-3, all-time.
“Well, it’s tough,” Roddick said. “You know, I’m gonna have to play pretty aggressively now, similar to what I did today. He’s one of the greatest ever, so I’m gonna have to, you know, have a repeat at least.”
Said Nadal: “Andy is a fantastic player. He’s having one of the best careers, being in the top players for, I don’t know, 11 years, 10 years, 9 years. That’s a lot. That’s amazing. So I have big respect for Andy, especially he’s very tough to be there for a long time and he did.
“So will be a big test for me.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.