Djokovic eases through, Roddick delays retirement

By Steve Ginsburg, Reuters

Posted at Sep 03 2012 09:25 AM | Updated as of Sep 03 2012 09:31 PM

NEW YORK - Novak Djokovic continued his stroll through the U.S. Open draw on Sunday as former champion and fan favourite Andy Roddick staved off retirement by ousting Italy's Fabio Fognini in raucous Arthur Ashe Stadium.

While Djokovic had a workmanlike 6-3 6-2 6-2 victory over Frenchman Julien Benneteau to reach the fourth round, the stadium turned rowdy watching Roddick's 7-5 7-6 4-6 6-4 triumph.

Another player quietly working through the draw was fourth seed Spaniard David Ferrer, who stopped 2001 champion Lleyton Hewitt of Australia 7-6 4-6 6-3 6-0 in a three-hour, 12-minute slugfest in Louis Armstrong Stadium.

If Roddick does not win the tournament, it will not be due to a lack of crowd support.

The Texan announced Thursday he would retire after the tournament and immediately became the fans' sentimental choice to provide an encore in the only grand slam he ever won.

The pro-Roddick crowd jamming the stadium cheered the American's every move and repeatedly broke into chants of "Let's Go An-dy, Let's go, An-dy."

When Fognini's service return slammed into the net on match-point, the crowd, including his model/actress wife Brooklyn Decker, erupted.

"I'm just enjoying this," a emotional Roddick told the crowd during his on-court interview. "I love this place, I love all you and I'm having a blast."

Roddick, the 2003 champion at Flushing Meadows, blasted 10 aces and struck 39 winners in the three-hour match.

"These last couple of days have been very humbling," the 30-year-old Roddick said. "I appreciate the support, I really do. I'm trying to keep my emotions together."

Roddick will next play seventh seed Juan Martin Del Potro, the 2009 U.S. Open winner, who beat Argentine compatriot Leonardo Mayer 6-3 7-5 7-6.

Later on Sunday, women's top seed Victoria Azarenka of Balarus was to face Georgia's Anna Tatishvili, while number three Maria Sharapova and number 19 Nadia Petrova were set to square off in an all-Russian match.

Djokovic shines

While Roddick and five-times U.S. Open winner Roger Federer have grabbed most of the headlines, Djokovic, the defending champion, has progressed through the draw without losing a set.

The Serb took time off after reaching the final in Cincinnati this month and it paid dividends.

"The attention comes and goes," said Djokovic. "It's normal. This is sport. Obviously Andy and his retirement attracted a lot of attention, so everybody is excited to see him play and see how far he can go.

"I have been playing really well in the U.S. Open the last five years. My goal was to, in these seven, eight days I had off after the Cincinnati final, to really try to recover, charge my batteries, work on some things in my game, and come out strong from the start.

"That's what I've done. I feel great on the court. I'm really trying to keep that up."

He thoroughly dominated Benneteau, hitting 13 aces, enjoying a 41-15 advantage in winners, and never facing a break point despite landing only 59 percent of his first serves.

"Winning the first set obviously brought me a lot of momentum and confidence to continue on playing well," said Djokovic, who won three majors in 2011, including the U.S. Open.

"I felt from the start that from the baseline, I was very comfortable, defense, offense. So I tried to be aggressive and not allow him to come to the net because he plays good when he's in control."

Djokovic will next face 18th seed Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland.

Ferrer took advantage of 72 unforced errors by Hewitt to set up a fourth-round match against Richard Gasquet of France or American Steve Johnson.

"He's not going to blow you off the court out there, but he's going to make you work for every single point," Hewitt said of Ferrer. "He's a quality player, a great competitor. You're going to be out there for a long time to beat him."

(Editing by Ed Osmond)