Roddick-del Potro US Open match suspended by rain

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NEW YORK — His match, and his retirement, put off for at least another day, Andy Roddick stepped out of Arthur Ashe Stadium and into the drizzly night, a black jacket’s hood pulled overhead, a bag of ice soothing his right shoulder.

He’ll try to prolong his U.S. Open — and his professional tennis career — today.

Roddick’s fourth-round showdown against another past champion at Flushing Meadows, Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina, was suspended because of rain Tuesday night, with the American leading 1-0 in a first-set tiebreaker.

A little more than a half-hour later, the players were told they could head to their hotels.

They were scheduled to resume today as the second match in Ashe, after four-time major champion Maria Sharapova’s quarterfinal against 2007 Wimbledon runner-up Marion Bartoli. That was halted Tuesday with Bartoli ahead 4-0.

Other matches stopped in progress, also in the first set, included defending champion Novak Djokovic against No. 18 Stanislas Wawrinka, and No. 8 Janko Tipsarevic against No. 19 Philipp Kohlschreiber.

On a day of off-and-on action because of intermittent showers, only two singles matches were completed: Top-seeded Victoria Azarenka reached her first U.S. Open semifinal by cobbling together a 6-1, 4-6, 7-6 (5) victory over defending champion Sam Stosur, and No. 4 David Ferrer reached the quarterfinals by beating No. 13 Richard Gasquet 7-5, 7-6 (2), 6-4.

So, Victoria, what went through your mind as your high-tension, high-quality match stretched into that third-set tiebreaker?

“You don’t want to know what I kept telling myself,” Azarenka deadpanned. “I would have to beep that, I think.”

She went on to offer a cleaned-up version of what her thoughts had been — “Don’t be a chicken” — while assuring herself of retaining the No. 1 ranking no matter what happens the rest of this week.

Her match, like most at Flushing Meadows so far, took second billing to one involving the 20th-seeded Roddick, who surprisingly announced last week that this tournament would be the last of his career.

There were thousands of empty blue seats when Roddick and del Potro took to the court, probably owing to the showers that led to about an hour’s delay at the start of the marquee match.

It was misty at the outset, and the humidity topped 80 percent, leaving both men’s shirts sopped with sweat.

Roddick came out the aggressor, looking for any opportunity to get to the net, and the volley he smacked to end the third game glanced off the 6-foot-6 del Potro’s right shoulder.

Seemingly in control, Roddick suddenly slowed, and del Potro finally began showing off the big, flat forehand that carried him past Federer in the 2009 U.S. Open final.

Del Potro pounded one forehand so hard that Roddick shanked an attempted reply off his racket handle, sending the ball into the fourth row of the stands behind him.

It was a rough 15 minutes for the crowd favorite, who five times stood two points from claiming the set, but couldn’t get closer.

When Roddick served for it at 5-3, he played a loose game, rolling his eyes after putting one backhand into the net, then sailing an approach shot long and rushing a forehand long. Del Potro broke there and eventually, as drops began to fall, they headed to the tiebreaker.

After only one point, an inside-out forehand winner by Roddick, chair umpire Carlos Bernardes stepped down to inspect the wet court and declared it unplayable.

A few spectators booed. Roddick and del Potro sat in their changeover chairs for a few minutes, until being told the delay would be substantial enough that they could wait it out in the locker room.

Not much after that, they found out they would need to come back today, when the forecast calls for an 80 percent chance of rain.

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