Roddick adds lustre to America's new generation

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Twelve years after sneaking into the players' lounge at the United States Open at the age of nine and throwing ice at guests from behind the potted plants, the 21-year-old Andy Roddick was up to his tricks again on Sunday. This time he pelted Juan Carlos Ferrero, the world No 1, with serves of up to 141mph and 20,000 people roared in approval.

The brash American, who wows his public with an animated style and Jim Carrey-like popping eyes, arrived as a champion in the nick of time, at the end of two weeks of homage to past home heroes as Pete Sampras and Michael Chang took their leave and the 33-year-old Andre Agassi pondered his future.

Jimmy Connors, a semi-finalist here at the age of 39 in 1991, when the mischievous boy Roddick had the nerve to access all areas, paid a rare visit for Sunday's final to be inducted into the US Open's "Court of Champions".

"From an American's standpoint," Connors said, "the important thing is that one of the Americans is around. They can play anybody. If they are around and they're playing up to a standard necessary to carry the game, like Roddick is, like Agassi has done, that's a big part of it for this tournament."

The organisers certainly helped to ensure that an American survived for the finale, putting Roddick on court during a dry spell last Wednesday night while other players were left in limbo, after Agassi had already been helped to beat the rain on Tuesday night.

Ferrero eventually fought through five sets against Todd Martin and four against Lleyton Hewitt before supplanting Agassi as the world No 1 after four sets in the semi-finals. Roddick's biggest challenge came in his semi-final against David Nalbandian. The American recovered from two sets down and saved a match point.

Roddick's demolition of the weary Ferrero, 6-3, 7-6, 6-3, after an hour and 42 minutes, was confirmation of a new order in the men's game following the 23-year-old Spaniard Ferrero's victory at the French Open and the 22-year-old Swiss Roger Federer's triumph at Wimbledon.

The three new major champions bring various qualities to the sport: Ferrero his magnificent ground strokes, which he is able to translate from slow clay to the faster courts; Federer the genius of his all-round play; Roddick his explosive serve, punishing forehand and improving backhand.

Brad Gilbert, who has watched Roddick win 37 of his last 39 matches since being fired as his coach on the eve of the Stella Artois Championships at London's Queen's Club, described him as "a bigger, stronger Lendl". If Roddick, with his extrovert personality, proves to have even half of Ivan Lendl's level of dedication and professionalism, the sport will be truly blessed.

"I can't imagine my name and 'US Open champion' together," Roddick said after drying his tears of joy. "It's more than I could ever dream of. I'm baffled how calm I felt (during the match). I was just going through the motions."

Ferrero also seemed to be going through the motions as Roddick's serves flashed by - the victor hit 23 aces to finish the tournament with a total of 123 - and the American's drives and volleys mopped up the majority of points in between. "Strange experience," Ferrero said. "To become No 1 is great. To lose is not."

Roddick was asked to cast his mind back to the opening round of the championships, when there was no sign of rain and Tim Henman, the British No 1, was standing on the opposite side of the net.

"That was huge," said Roddick, who defeated Henman 6-3, 7-6, 6-3. "I wasn't happy when I saw the draw. I'd had a great summer, but he was the only person I'd lost to [in the Washington final]. I knew I was playing good enough tennis to make a run here, but I also knew I could go home after the first round."

Roddick, born in Nebraska but raised in Florida, added that, as things worked out, "I don't think you could have written a script any better - starting it off with Pete's retirement, and then Chang is gone - it was just too good".

Favoured by the timetable, the A-train rattled through the city bang on schedule.


Men's singles: A Agassi (US)
Women's singles: S Williams (US)
Men's doubles: M Llodra (Fr) & F Santoro (Fr)
Women's doubles: S Williams (US) & V Williams (US)
Mixed doubles: L Paes (India) & M Navratilova (US)

Men's singles: J C Ferrero (Sp)
Women's singles: J Henin-Hardenne (Bel)
Men's doubles: B Bryan (US) & M Bryan (US)
Women's doubles: K Clijsters (Bel) & A Sugiyama (Japan)
Mixed doubles: M Bryan (US) & L Raymond (US)

Men's singles: R Federer (Swit)
Women's singles: S Williams (US)
Men's doubles: T Woodbridge (Aus) & J Bjorkman (Swe)
Women's doubles: K Clijsters (Bel) & A Sugiyama (Japan)
Mixed doubles: L Paes (India) & M Navratilova (US)

Men's singles: A Roddick (US)
Women's singles: J Henin-Hardenne (Bel)
Men's doubles: T Woodbridge (Aus) & J Bjorkman (Swe)
Women's doubles: V Ruano Pascual (Sp) & P Suarez (Arg)
Mixed doubles: B Bryan (US) & K Srebotnik (Sloven)