Andy Roddick has become something of a Wimbledon fixture over the last decade and fans know exactly what they are going to get when they pay to watch the American No 8 seed.
Yesterday, the 28-year-old began his 11th successive assault on the tournament with only an outside chance of matching his three runner-up finishes in 2004, 2005 and 2009 but he was as committed as on his debut as he battered his way past German Andreas Beck 6-4, 7-6, 6-3.
As a brash, young, cap-wearing American, the Wimbledon crowd was not quick to warm to him in his early years but three things British fans love are an underdog, a trier and a good-spirited loser. Despite his 2003 US Open title and former No 1 ranking, they soon saw all three in Roddick.
Despite the solid support he received on Court One, Roddick said he was still unsure of how he fitted into the Wimbledon picture. "I think a lot changes over the course of 10 or 11 years but it's tough for me to look at my relationship with the fans here objectively," he said. "I know from my end I certainly enjoy it but I'm not going to speak for them, though they've always been great to me."
Three times he got to the final here and three times he found Roger Federer standing in his way. Twice he was unable to make much impression on the Swiss maestro, who had also beaten him in the 2003 semi-finals, but in 2009 he came agonisingly close before eventually going down 16-14 in the fifth set of a classic encounter.
Even though he had beaten Andy Murray in the semis, that tough final defeat assured him a place in the Wimbledon fans' hearts and he had terrific backing during his awkward opening match against his 156th-ranked opponent.
Roddick wasted little time in unloading his 130mph serves, punchy double-handed backhands and no-holds-barred forehands but his radar was a touch off and the German matched him all the way until the American broke in the tenth game to take the first set.
It was solid, if unspectacular entertainment and the murmuring members found time to tut and chunter as the umpire called "net" instead of "let" on a succession of let services.
The second set was equally tight, going to a tiebreak that turned on a successful Roddick appeal against a baseline "out" call.
Thirty years ago John McEnroe was labelled a brat for daring to challenge a line call but now, with appeals enshrined as part of the game, his compatriot was giving a rousing ovation when the replay showed he was right.
Once the tiebreak went his way, Roddick gritted his teeth and pumped his fist as he, his opponent and most of the watching crowd knew that the battle was over and he duly eased through the third set after notching an early break.
"He certainly had an obvious game plan and executed it for most of the day," Roddick said of Beck. "He wasn't going to rally much. He was just going to take his shots and go really aggressive and it worked most of the day.
"Normally when you have that mindset, you can count on someone making errors in bunches. Luckily he made two when he was up in that breaker." Roddick now plays Romania's Victor Hanescu.Reuse content