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Roddick Tested In Opener, Faces Malisse In Repeat Of 2001 Final

Atlanta, U.S.A.

Roddick© Getty ImagesAndy Roddick won his first tour-level title in Atlanta in 2009.

Top seed Andy Roddick opened his Olympus US Open Series campaign Thursday with a tougher-than-expected three-set win over fellow American Rajeev Ram at the Atlanta Tennis Championships.

Roddick became the fifth American to reach the quarter-finals, following the move by second seed John Isner, sixth seed Mardy Fish and veterans Taylor Dent and Michael Russell into the last eight on Wednesday.

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Roddick improved to an ATP World Tour-best 27-4 on hard courts and seventh ATP World Tour quarter-final or better this season following a 6-1, 6-7(1), 6-3 win in 1 hr., 56 mins.

The former World No. 1 raced through the first set and held serve throughout the second, but Ram forced a deciding set when he blitzed Roddick 7-1 in the tie-break. That marked the first time since the 2005 US Open (when Roddick lost to Gilles Muller in the first round) that the two-time US Open Series winner had lost a tie-break 1-7.

Roddick needed to save two break points in the first game of the third set, and capitalised on his first opportunity to take a 3-1 lead. He finished the match with 15 aces and saved all four break points he faced.

“If he breaks in the first game of the third, then it’s a long way back,” said Roddick. “That was probably the key, the pivotal moment of the match. Then being able to break was huge. But the break doesn’t mean as much if you’re down a break to begin with.”

The top American will next confront seventh-seeded Belgian Xavier Malisse, whom he leads 8-0 in the head-to-head series. The pair first faced off in the 2001 Atlanta final, which was the last time Georgia’s capital city hosted an ATP World Tour event prior to this week. Roddick claimed his first tour-level title with a straight-sets victory in that match.

“It’s a little bit coincidental, especially given the history of this tournament,” said Roddick. “But we’ve played each other plenty of times since then. A lot’s happened since then. I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of surprises out there. I think we both know each other’s games pretty well.”

The 57th-ranked Malisse advanced to his fourth ATP World Tour quarter-final of the season after defeating Ukraine’s Illya Marchenko 6-3, 6-3.

South African Kevin Anderson ended Donald Young’s run at his hometown tournament as he beat the 20-year-old wild card 7-5, 6-3. Anderson appeared in his only previous tour-level quarter-final in 2008 at Las Vegas, where he reached the final as a qualifier (l. to Querrey).

Slovakian Lukas Lacko completed the quarter-final line-up as he posted a 6-4, 6-2 upset win against No. 3 seed Lleyton Hewitt. Afterwards, he called the result “one of the best of my career”.

Lacko dropped serve twice during the match, but broke the former World No. 1 five times from 10 opportunities.

“I played a good ending to the first set, and after breaking in the second, he seemed like he had some minor problems,” he said. “He needed a couple more steps on his strokes. He was late everywhere. I took advantage of this. I tried to be focused only, to hold the serve, not to make his mistakes and make him run.”

Hewitt admitted that he’d been unable to practice the past couple days due to a small injury, and said, “Didn’t quite have a lot of rhythm out there. Pushing off my serve wasn’t the best. That was putting me under a lot of pressure on my service games.”

The 22-year-old Lacko, who began the week at No. 76 in the South African Airways 2010 ATP Rankings, will be looking to reach the semi-finals for the first time at an ATP World Tour event after quarter-final exits this year in Chennai, Zagreb, Memphis and Halle.

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