They were occasions for the two men to savour, a chance to relish what may prove to be their last victories on one of the great stages on which they have performed for more than a decade. This US Open will be the farewell tournament of Andy Roddick's career, while speculation grows with every Grand Slam event that Lleyton Hewitt is preparing to hang up his racket. However, their second-round matches here proved that both men will go down fighting.
Hewitt, the master of the five-set marathon, beat Gilles Muller of Luxembourg 3-6 7-6 6-7 7-5 6-4 in a thriller out on Court 11 before Roddick gave a tennis lesson in Arthur Ashe Stadium to Bernard Tomic, the youngest man in the world's top 100 and Hewitt's successor as Australian No 1. Roddick, who won 6-3 6-4 6-0, will face Italy's Fabio Fognini in the third round, while Hewitt will play David Ferrer, the world No 5.
Roddick, 30, and Hewitt, 31, have much in common. Both are former US Open champions, both are former world No 1 and both have been dogged by injury in their latter years. Both have also been ferocious competitors. Roddick has made up for his technical limitations with sheer willpower and determination, while Hewitt's diehard spirit took him to the top despite the fact that he lacked the physical attributes of many of his rivals.
"Oh, man, he's probably the best competitor I played against," Roddick said after his own mauling of Tomic. "It's weird. This year we've probably become friends. At first we probably didn't like each other much, and then it came to the point where we respected each other. Then it was slowly like we kind of each give a little ground and would say: 'How you doing?' 'I'm good. How are you?' 'OK.'
"Now we'll text each other back and forth after matches and stuff. It's funny how that cycle's come full circle. I come in today and he's in the throes of a battle. Our lockers are right next to each other. He came in and he was really pumped up. It would be hard for me to respect what he's done in this game more than I do."
Hewitt, who has undergone hip and foot surgery in recent years, has had so many physical troubles of late that the greatest threat to his progress here is probably the danger of the glue holding his body together melting in the steaming heat. The world No 125, who needed a wild card because he has fallen so far down the rankings through a lack of matches, was on court for more than four and a half hours and had to send for the trainer when his toes started bleeding.
"I don't know if I'd call it an injury – it was more just the toenails were giving me some issues out there," Hewitt said. "Just filling the sock up with a bit of blood. Just needed to get them taped and a little bit of padding to relieve it a little bit. Got it sorted out."
Roddick, who had announced on Thursday that this would be his last tournament, admitted that he had felt nervous in the locker room before going out on court. "The moment kind of hit me a little bit," he said. "You start realising the finality of the situation. You think different things. I walk out for the warm-up and think: 'Is this going to be the last warm-up?' It got to me a little."
During the game Roddick made sure he took in the unique flavour of a night match in Arthur Ashe Stadium. "I had a good time," he said. "When they're doing the dancing and stuff on the switch-overs I was just watching. That was fun."
Tomic played poorly and John McEnroe, commentating on ESPN, questioned whether he had been trying. Roddick was asked for his opinion on the 19-year-old. "He'll be fine," Roddick said. "He just kind of has to keep a little bit of perspective on it. He's going to be great one day and not so good the next."Reuse content