With Connors in his corner Roddick rolls

Published 9:41 am Thursday, June 28, 2007

WIMBLEDON, England — As if all the questions he gets about the recent lack of U.S. success at Grand Slam tournaments weren’t enough, Andy Roddick tours the world with another constant reminder of his country’s glory days: his coach, Jimmy Connors.
So there was Connors, chin on hand, watching intently Wednesday at Wimbledon while his pupil did the sorts of things they’ve been working on. Roddick went to the net, returned well and beat Danai Udomchoke of Thailand 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (3) to reach the third round at the All England Club for the seventh consecutive year.
The No. 3-seeded Roddick, who hit 15 aces while serving at up to 140 mph, was one of five men who completed victories before rain wiped out play. Forget what the calendar says, it didn’t look or feel like summertime at all to fans huddling under plaid blankets and umbrellas for shelter from showers, swirling wind and temperatures in the 50s.
Roger Federer was leading 18-year-old Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina 6-2, 7-5, 2-0 when their match was suspended, putting on hold what would be the Swiss star’s 50th consecutive grass-court win. Federer is bidding for his fifth consecutive Wimbledon championship, and 11th title in the past 17 majors, leaving little room for Roddick — or anyone else — to collect trophies.
Two-time Wimbledon champion Serena Williams was among the women who reached the third round before the weather worsened. Her 7-6 (4), 6-3 victory over Alicia Molik of Australia ended oddly, thanks to the replay system making its Wimbledon debut this summer.
On Williams’ third match point, Molik hit a forehand that a line judge called wide, but — apparently oblivious to the ruling — they continued hitting until the American put away a forehand volley. The players walked to the net to shake hands, but chair umpire Sandra de Jenken reminded Molik of her right to challenge the call.
Molik did, the replay showed the ball was out, and only then was it over.
Her next opponent is 56th-ranked Milagros Sequera of Venezuela, who knocked off No. 27 Samantha Stosur of Australia 6-2, 5-7, 6-4. In the only other upset of note Wednesday, 77th-ranked Laura Granville of the United States beat No. 20 Sybille Bammer of Austria 6-1, 6-4.
Other women advancing to the third round included No. 1 Justine Henin, No. 3 Jelena Jankovic and 1997 champion Martina Hingis. French Open runner-up Ana Ivanovic, No. 12 Elena Dementieva, No. 13 Dinara Safina and No. 14 Nicole Vaidisova won their openers.
Eight singles matches were suspended in progress; 10 never began. In a bid to deal with the backlog, play will start on most courts an hour earlier than usual Thursday.
Roddick’s U.S. Davis Cup teammate, No. 9 James Blake, never made it on court for his second-round match against Andrei Pavel of Romania. Roddick, Blake and the unseeded Amer Delic — who faces No. 4 Novak Djokovic on Thursday — were the only U.S. men who won their first-round matches; 11 lost.
That is the fewest American men to reach the second round of Wimbledon in at least 40 years, a showing that comes after an 0-9 performance in the first round of the French Open.
No American man has won a Grand Slam title since Roddick at the 2003 U.S. Open, a span of 14 tournaments. Everyone from Roddick to Blake, from Connors to John McEnroe, has weighed in on why — and whether it is, indeed, troubling.
Part of the problem, Roddick pointed out, is that he and Blake are on the scene in the aftermath of quite a crop of U.S. stars: Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier and Michael Chang combined to win 27 majors. That quartet took over from Connors and McEnroe, who retired with 15 Grand Slam titles between them.
He’s come the closest to putting up big numbers, but lost to Federer at Wimbledon in the 2003 semifinals and 2004 and 2005 finals. Roddick also lost to Federer in last year’s U.S. Open final.
Connors wasn’t as forgiving.
He won Wimbledon in 1974 and 1982, experiences Roddick hopes to draw upon.
Roddick acknowledged a lapse in concentration Wednesday against his 114th-ranked foe, who broke his serve late in the third set. But Roddick did erase the other eight break points he faced, broke Udomchoke’s serve once in each set, and won five of the match’s first six points that lasted at least 10 strokes.