NEW YORK (AP) — As the best in his country for years, Andy Roddick has long been the man to turn to when questions about the future of American tennis come up.
On Friday night at the U.S. Open, he saw that future up-close in a player named Jack Sock — and made sure Sock didn't become the story line of the present.
Roddick beat the 18-year-old Sock 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 to close out a day filled with U.S. stories — some of them about success, some not.
The 29-year-old former champion has been on the decline of late. Once the world No. 1, he's seeded 21st at Flushing Meadows this year. But he's still a headliner, and during the prime-time match at Arthur Ashe Stadium, he pushed around the two-time 18-and-under USTA champion, blunting his big serve, working him around the court and, overall, using Sock's aggression and inexperience on the sport's biggest stage against him.
It was a fine performance against the teenager, more impressive than Roddick's opening-round match, a four-set evening that ended with an interview in the ESPN booth in which he took exception to some of the TV analysts and ex-players who like to pick apart his game.
"The thing is, I'm getting hammered the other night, but I'm not way too down on myself," Roddick said. "I come here and I don't know what to think about what people think they saw. Tonight I'm getting praise, so I kind of stay in the middle. I'm not going to get way too up or down about it. I'm in the third round."
Roddick, who has struggled through a difficult summer, has moved to underdog status at the tournament he won back in 2003.
But he's still around.
Third-seeded Maria Sharapova, clearly a favorite in a women's draw that gets more unpredictable by the day, made an unexpected exit with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 loss to No. 26 Flavia Pennetta.
"It's just one of those days," Sharapova said. "Unfortunately, it's the U.S. Open."
In other women's action, No. 2 Vera Zvonareva beat No. 30 Anabel Medina Garrigues 6-4, 7-5. Top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki and 28th-seeded Serena Williams play Saturday.
On the men's side, No. 2 Rafael Nadal was leading Nicolas Mahut 6-2, 6-2 when Mahut retired with an injured stomach.
No. 4 Andy Murray, long trying to break through at the Grand Slam level, had to rally from two sets down for a momentum-swinging 6-7 (5), 2-6, 6-2, 6-0, 6-4 victory over Robin Haase of the Netherlands.
But the best five-setter on this day belonged to another American, 22-year-old Donald Young.
Like Sock, Young is a two-time junior champion. But Young's star hasn't always shone so brightly. Once touted as the next big thing in American tennis, he has struggled to fulfill that potential. On Friday, he gutted through a 7-6 (7), 3-6, 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (1) victory over No. 14 Stanislas Wawrinka — a match that compelled Patrick McEnroe, the head of USTA player development who had been at odds with Young this year, to tweet: "In tennis terms Donald Young became a man today."
Young shrugged off the tension with McEnroe, said the relationship with the USTA is fine, but also conceded that the win over Wawrinka was a big one.
"I'd like to think I'm a pretty tough person, deep down," said Young, now ranked 84th in the world. "I just had to grow up a little bit. Everybody's light goes on at a different time. Hopefully, mine's coming on right now."
Also playing well now is American John Isner. Isner beat another American, Robby Ginepri, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 for his seventh straight win — a streak that earned him a title at a tuneup in Winston-Salem last week.
Isner's next match comes against another American, Alex Bogomolov Jr., who won in straight sets. The 28-year-old Bogomolov, ranked 44th, is trying to kick his career into high gear after enduring, over the past decade, a failed marriage, a failed doping test and wrist surgery that briefly forced him into a teaching job in New York.
"I was ready" for this, Bogomolov said. "I was ready mentally, physically for this. It's just that you never knew with tennis, especially with how my life was."
American James Blake was also on the court Friday, a straight-set loser to fifth-seeded David Ferrer.
In women's play, American Irina Falconi lost, and before Roddick played, U.S. teenager Christina McHale went on the show court and fell 6-2, 6-3 to No. 25 Maria Kirilenko of Russia.
"This one, it's disappointing," McHale said. "But, yeah, I think I just kind of have to take the positives from it and keep working hard and keep going."
Same thing for Sock who, after the match, received an offer from Roddick to head down to Texas and practice with him at his house.
Quite a final chapter to an amazing night for the 18-year-old.
"It was the best tennis experience of my life," Sock said. "You don't really realize how big the stadium is, I think, until you get down there."
If he stays on this path, he'll be there plenty. Which wouldn't make Roddick, who takes pride in mentoring America's next generation, unhappy.
"I think we've got a couple of legit prospects," he said, adding Young and 19-year-old Ryan Harrison to that list. "My favorite thing about them is that they compete. They really, really, really compete."
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