With the possible exceptions of The Mousetrap and Coronation Street, all good runs come to an end, as Andy Roddick's did here yesterday. But the 21-year-old United States Open champion has achieved enough this season to offset the disappointment of his emphatic defeat by the Chilean Nicolas Massu, 7-6, 6-2, in the third round of the Madrid Masters.
Roddick had won 20 consecutive tournament matches until this first encounter with Massu and had lost only two of 31 matches since Wimbledon. The American was also on course to become the first player to win three successive Masters Series events since their inception in 1990.
But the cracks evident in Roddick's tight second-round win against Max Mirnyi, of Belarus, on Wednesday developed into a chasm against Massu, who managed to out-serve and out-hit an opponent who has punished others in a similar fashion.
Like Mirnyi, Massu was almost crushed by Roddick's early assault, recovering from 5-2 down in the opening set to dictate the majority of the points thereafter. Massu could claim that he was the victim of a questionable call when broken for 2-4 in the first set, but his response came from his racket.
Once the Chilean broke back for 4-5, the whole pattern of the match changed. Massu became the aggressor, Roddick the man forced on to the backfoot.
Massu's serve became rock solid - his first serve percentage was 82 in the second set, and 74 per cent for the match, against Roddick's 54 per cent - and his nimble footwork enabled him to create winning angles for his groundstrokes.
The sporting Roddick more than once complimented Massu's powerful strokes with a nod and a shout of "Shot!" The Chilean's angled forehand at 2-3 in the first-set tie-break roused the spectators and raised his confidence to a new level.
The shaken Roddick netted a forehand approach shot and then was unable to pick up a drop shot to leave Massu with three set points at 6-3. The Chilean converted the first.
Massu broke for 2-0 in the second set, cracking Roddick with two service returns, and the American was unable to recover, double-faulting on match point. "I just didn't bring my best stuff today," Roddick said, "and he stepped up and played a really good match."
The 24-year-old Chilean, ranked No 21 in the world, eliminated Gustavo Kuerten, of Brazil, but yesterday's victory was sweeter.
Roger Federer, the Wimbledon champion, advanced to the quarter-finals with a 6-3, 7-6 win against the American Mardy Fish. Fish, the only player to take a set off Federer at the All England Club last summer, led 4-2 in the second set here.
Fish became so frustrated after losing the advantage that he was warned for abusive language. Federer went on to win the tie-break, 7-4.
The manner of Juan Carlos Ferrero's win against the South African Wayne Ferreira on Wednesday night, 6-2, 2-6, 7-6, suggested that the sport ought to review the rules concerning injury time-outs.
Ferreira had the momentum in the final set when, on the prompting of his coach, Ferrero called the trainer to change a bandage on an ankle. Having waited to finish the match, Ferreira was unsettled by spectators cheering when he missed a first serve and double-faulted on match point.
"I guess [calling the trainer] was a probably a mental ploy to try and stall the game," Ferreira said. "As for the crowd, I've never seen anything as disgraceful in 15 years on the tour."
Ferrero reached the quarter-finals last night, defeating his compatriot, Felix Mantilla, 7-6, 7-6, and will today play Paradorn Srichaphan, of Thailand.
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