Former champion Andy Roddick, who has not spent much time on the court this summer, got a good workout at the U.S. Open on Wednesday in dispatching fellow American Michael Russell 6-2 6-4 4-6 7-5.
Roddick, the 2003 champion, has been battling back from an injury-plagued season, bothered first by a sore shoulder and more recently from an abdominal tear that have led him to fall out of the top 20 for the first time in 10 years.
Feeling pain-free for now, Roddick broke the 33-year-old Russell in the final game with a passing shot that splashed at the feet of his approaching opponent, who had committed his eighth double fault at 15-30 to provide a double match point.
Russell, whose main claim to fame was reaching the round of 16 at the 2001 French Open and holding match points against defending champion Gustavo Kuerten before falling, remained winless at the Open with an 0-7 record.
However, he gave Roddick a good tussle as he raced around court to keep alive some hard-hitting rallies.
Michael is one of my favorite players, Roddick told an on-court interviewer. He gets the most out of his talent. He's all heart and muscle and he makes you win.
The victory set up an intriguing second-round contest for 28-year-old Roddick, who will be looking across the net at an image of himself 10 years earlier in American Jack Sock.
Sock, a two-time U.S. Tennis Association boys champion from Roddick's own home state of Nebraska, was a 6-4 6-3 1-6 6-4 winner against France's Marc Gicquel.
He's full of p*** and vinegar. He's from Nebraska. Sounds a little like an 18-year-old I knew once upon a time, Roddick said about his opponent.
It doesn't get any easier.
Wednesday was a big day for U.S. players, as five American men advanced to the second round including John Isner, Robby Ginepri and Alex Bogomolov.
On the women's side, unseeded Christina McHale and Irina Falconi upset seeded foes to reach the women's third round. McHale ousted eighth seed Marion Bartoli of France, and Falconi eliminated 14th seed Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia.
Roddick said he got a kick out of watching Sock and young American up-and-comer Ryan Harrison, a first-round loser here, as they get started in the professional ranks.
It's fun to watch these kids, he said. It's all there, it's all ahead of them. They have this incredible journey ahead of them.