- The Washington Times - Monday, August 8, 2005

If Andy Roddick wins the U.S. Open later this month, he might look back at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic as the tournament that gave him the momentum for a memorable hardcourt season.

Roddick collected his second career Legg Mason title yesterday, defeating fellow American James Blake 7-5, 6-3 at a packed stadium court at William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center.

“I felt like I was hitting the ball well, and I felt like I was in shape coming into the week, but being match-tough is a whole different story,” said Roddick, who also won the Legg Mason in 2001. “Kind of going through it mentally and physically this week, I couldn’t be happier with where I am as far as my preparation. I’m going to try to have this roll over into the next couple weeks.”

It was Roddick’s fourth title this year; he also won at San Jose, Houston and Queen’s Club.

Roddick was almost invulnerable on his serve all week, and he was poised to turn it into a rout when he broke Blake in his first service game and seized a 3-1 lead. Blake rallied, though, and at 3-2 he delivered what proved to be the only break of Roddick in 64 service games in the tournament with a strong set of returns.

“I wasn’t upset because I didn’t feel like I played a bad game,” said Roddick, who improved to 6-0 in ATP Tour matches against Blake. “He came up with some shots, and he took a couple full swings on my first serves and hit them flush. I think it’s a lot easier when you feel like the other guy comes up with the goods.”

The two held serve until the 12th game, when Blake sent an overhand smash long on a break point to yield the set to Roddick.

Neither player had trouble in the second set until Roddick broke Blake at 3-4, giving the top seed the chance to serve for the match. Roddick won the first two points of the game, but Blake again ably coped with Roddick’s serve. He secured a pair of forehand winners, then earned a break opportunity on the most entertaining point of the match.

Near the end of a long rally, Blake pounded a shot that Roddick had little chance to return. Roddick stuck out his racket and made contact, stunning nearly everyone. Blake then stuffed a winner down the right side but squandered the break chance when his forehand return bounced into the net.

Roddick was turned back on his first championship point, but he didn’t waste his second moments later, pounding a 126 mph ace (his 18th of the day and 67th of the tournament) down the middle to clinch the title.

The loss didn’t mar an otherwise perfect week for Blake, who knocked off three seeded players (No.4 Radek Stepanek, No.10 Tomas Berdych and No.16 Tomas Zib) en route to his first final since August 2003 at Long Island. Blake, who battled injuries last year and fell as low as 210th in the world this spring, is expected to leap from 101st to between 70th and 75th when this week’s rankings are released today.

“Hopefully, I’m not to be taken lightly and not playing where my ranking is indicating I am,” said Blake, who won his only career title at the 2002 Legg Mason. “I’m playing better than that. Everyone has been saying this is my welcome back, but I feel like I’ve been back for a little while. This was kind of the fruition of it.”

Notes — Blake upstaged Roddick in the postmatch remarks in the stadium, leading the crowd in a rendition of “Happy Birthday” for his mother, Betty, who turns 70 today. “I’m usually pretty good at this,” Roddick said. “He kind of threw me under the bus with that.” …

In the doubles final, top-seeded Bob and Mike Bryan rolled past second-seeded Wayne Black and Kevin Ullyett 6-4, 6-2 to capture their first Legg Mason title. The Bryan brothers broke the Zimbabwean duo in the opening game of both sets en route to their third title of the year. … Fifth-seeded Ashley Harkleroad won the USTA Pro Circuit women’s final, defeating Olga Poutchkova 6-2, 6-1.

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