NEW YORK — That Andy Roddick’s last match as a 20-something would not be his last match at the 2012 U.S. Open was hardly in doubt Tuesday, especially whenever he was launching that intimidating, tough-to-handle serve of his.
Roddick closed with aces in the first set (clocked at 141 mph), second set (134 mph) and third set (127 mph).
Yes, even as Roddick’s 30th birthday approaches on Thursday, even as his body has succumbed to injury after injury, that serve is pretty much still the same as it ever was. Now that he more frequently faces opponents who grew up cheering for him – such as 21-year-old qualifier Rhyne Williams of Knoxville, Tenn., the foil for Tuesday’s 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory – Roddick knows more than ever he needs to rely on the best thing he’s got, and 20 aces helped this time.
Following Roddick into Arthur Ashe Stadium was 32-year-old Venus Williams, playing her first U.S. Open match since she pulled out before the second round in 2011 and revealed she had been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease.
After a shaky start, dropping the first two games – and even seven points in a row in one stretch – Williams used her own powerful serve to beat Bethanie Mattek-Sands of the U.S., 6-3, 6-1. One serve at 124 mph jammed Mattek-Sands’ left index finger, shoving it into a racket string so hard she needed attention from a trainer.
Serena Williams quickly dispatched 75th-ranked CoCo Vandeweghe of the U.S., needing less than an hour for a 6-1, 6-1 victory. Williams improved to 48-1 in first-round matches at major tournaments and looked sharp, committing only nine unforced errors despite windy conditions.
Three notable upsets were by young, up-and-coming Americans. In singles, Sloane Stephens, 19, who is ranked 44th, beat 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone, 6-3, 6-4. In doubles, Jack Sock, 19, and Steve Johnson, 22, beat top-seeded Max Mirnyi of Belarus and Daniel Nestor of Canada, 1-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2, while brothers Ryan and Christian Harrison defeated last year’s runners-up, Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski of Poland, 7-6 (3), 2-6, 7-6 (7).