- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 31, 2003

Greg Rusedski can kick it. Slide it. Blast it right down the middle.

In fact, there’s only one thing the lanky British left-hander can’t do with his concussive serve — beat Andy Roddick.

“[Rusedski] puts a lot of pressure on you,” said Mardy Fish. “But Andy has his number.”

Does he ever. In a shootout between the two hardest servers in tennis, Roddick downed Rusedski 6-3, 7-6 (4) last night in the third round of the Legg Mason Tennis Classic on Stadium Court at William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center.

The second-seeded Roddick notched his third straight win over Rusedski, who humbled him in a Wimbledon rout last summer.

“It’s never routine,” Roddick said. “With the way that both of us serve, if you get a break, you’re looking at a 75, 80 percent chance of winning the set. Bottom line: He didn’t get the break.”

Roddick advanced to a quarterfinal meeting with fellow American and former training partner Fish, a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 upset winner over Russian No.5 seed Yevgeny Kafelnikov.

Fish, the No.11 seed, moved from Minnesota to Florida and lived with Roddick’s family for a year in 1999, playing on the same basketball and tennis teams with Roddick at Boca Prep in Boca Raton.

“It’s the way it’s always like to play the young Americans,” Roddick said. “You can still be friendly and enjoy each other’s company beforehand. But once it gets between the lines, he wants to take me out, and I want to take him out.”

Joining Roddick in the quarterfinals was top seed Andre Agassi, who swept past Armenia’s Sargis Sargisan 6-3, 6-2 in 58 minutes. Afterward, Agassi flashed a warm smile and shared a few words at net with Sargisan, a good friend and frequent practice partner.

“I basically told him bad luck,” Agassi said. “And I’m looking forward to getting some dinner.”

Agassi will face defending champion James Blake, who rallied from a break down in the second set to beat Lars Burgsmuller 3-6, 7-5, 6-4.

In other matches, Thailand’s Paradorn Srichaphan topped Virginia graduate Brian Vahaly 7-6 (3), 6-4. Chile’s Fernando Gonzalez and Britain’s Tim Henman also advanced.

Heading into the Roddick-Rusedski match, a single number loomed large: 149, the speed in miles per hour of the fastest recorded serve in ATP history, a mark set by Rusedski and equaled by Roddick.

“One-fifty, Andy!” screamed an optimistic fan during the second set.

However, it was another number — two — that proved more significant. Roddick entered the evening riding a pair of recent victories over Rusedski, most recently at Wimbledon.

In that match, Roddick eked out a pair of early tiebreakers before Rusedski slipped up. Last night matters played out in reverse as Roddick fought off three break points in his opening game before breaking Rusedski for a 2-0 lead.

“If I had broke him to start the match, it might had been a different story,” Rusedski said. “But he’s the one who broke me on the second game, and that set the tone for the first set.”

The two traded service blasts in the second, with a 126 mph Roddick ace setting up a tiebreaker. Leading 4-3, Roddick flipped a backhand pass around Rusedski’s forehand, scoring a mini-break.

Two points later, Rusedski had a chance to break back with a forehand pass over his own but missed. Serving for the match, Roddick charged the net, then watched a Rusedski lob land wide.

“It came down to one passing shot,” Rusedski said. “He made it. I didn’t.”

Roddick improved to 17-1 under new coach Brad Gilbert. Ranked No.5 in the world, the 21-year-old has captured three titles in his past five tournaments.

“He’s hot right now, probably the hottest player on tour,” Rusedski said. “When you’re winning, it just keeps on happening.”

Like Roddick, Agassi had numbers on his side. He entered the match 5-0 against Sargisan and quickly showed why, winning an early break that gave him command of the first set.

“You still have to go out there and execute,” Agassi said of his record versus Sargisan. “But the matchup, I feel comfortable with. If I’m playing my best tennis, he’s going to have to do something special.”

Instead, it was Agassi who was special in the second, winning 28 straight points to open the set and breaking Sargisan three times.

“I wish it always went according to plan,” Agassi said with a chuckle. “I tell myself to win every point. But it doesn’t always work out that way.”

Agassi, who is attempting to win a record sixth Legg Mason title, has played in the Washington ATP tournament for 14 straight years — four years longer than the current sponsor has been around.

“I certainly love the fans and the atmosphere,” he said. “Always enjoyed coming to the city. But ultimately, it’s about finding a place that fits your style. It’s a great court for me, a medium pace hardcourt that lets me work through all my shots. It’s a court I’m comfortable on.”

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