By John Delong
For Andy Roddick, it was a matter of playing well enough to survive.
For James Blake, it was a night of missed opportunities.
That’s the way the battle between the two Winston-Salem fan favorites played out on Monday night as Roddick pulled out a 7-6 (6), 7-6 (6) victory in the second round of the Winston-Salem Open.
Roddick broke with Blake serving for the first set at 5-4, then fought off a set point in the tiebreaker to win the first set. Then Roddick fought off two set points in the second set and eventually put his longtime friend away.
The win moved Roddick into a third-round matchup against the winner of Tuesday’s second round match between Steve Darcis and Denis Istomin.
"It was tough tonight," Roddick said. "I was lucky to squeeze it out. I’m just happy to be through. Each match, you want to play better. That’s what this week is all about. The first set I was fortunate. He came out hot and you’re at his mercy when he’s playing like that. I thought I played well in the second set. I’ve always been lucky a lot in my career because I’ve been good at winning those type matches where it doesn’t look great all the time but you kinda get your way through."
Roddick, the tournament’s No. 5 seed and currently ranked No. 21 in the latest ATP rankings, showed no ill effects of the back problems that haunted him in Cincinnati last week.
"It’s all good now," he said. "It’s been a tough year physically. It’s been frustrating. But I felt good tonight and hopefully I’ll feel good tomorrow and get some matches in this week.
The victory gave Roddick a 9-3 edge all-time against Blake. The two were teammates on U.S. Davis Cup teams that played in Winston-Salem in 2001, 2007 and 2008. Both talked about their love for this city afterward.
"I really enjoy it here," Roddick said. "I feel like the crowd’s pretty enthusiastic, and I feel like the city is enthusiastic about having this event, so it makes it fun for us to be here. So I was looking forward to getting out there tonight."
Blake broke Roddick in the very first game of the match and played with the lead all the way to the 10th game. But serving for the set, he was broken at love. Blake then led 6-5 in the tiebreaker, but Roddick came back to win the last three points to claim the set.
Each player held serve throughout the second set, although Blake let a golden opportunity slip away, squandering two break points – two set points -- while leading 5-4. Then Blake double-faulted at 6-6 in the tiebreaker, and Roddick served out the match on the next point.
"There were a lot of points tonight that could have turned it around," Blake said. "When you’ve got a 6 and 6 match, both tie-breakers 8-6, there’s definitely plenty of points that could have changed it. Getting broken at love is not fun, but that’s probably the way you serve out a set when you haven’t played a ton of matches this year.
"It’s getting to be a broken record now. I’m losing a couple of matches where I’m playing well and not playing the big points as well as I need to. That was OK in (Washington) D.C. That was OK last week. But now I’m pretty frustrated with it. At this point now I’m ready to get some momentum and get some wins going, and this would have been a great opportunity to do it. I’d like to have a few of those shots back. But he played well when he needed to, so give him credit."
Roddick said that Blake showed signs that he is on the way back from injuries that have plagued him much of this year.
"The ball was coming off hot, off his racket," Roddick said. "I was kinda surviving a lot of the time out there. He was pulling the trigger faster than I was, I was just wanting him to pull it from tough positions and kinda play the odds a little bit. But the ball was coming off fast. I didn’t feel like I had a lot of control with what was going on on the baseline, and that’s how you felt when he was playing well.
"The last three weeks I think for him have been pretty encouraging. He’s won matches every week, and I think he’s had chances. He had me against the ropes tonight and he’s done that the last couple of weeks.
The night’s other second-round match was halted by rain after Sam Querrey took the first set over Santiago Giraldo 6-3. The match will be resumed Tuesday afternoon on Stadium Court after the conclusion of the day’s first match between Donald Young and Feliciano Lopez.
In the only other evening match, David Goffin defeated Viktor Troicki 3-6, 6-4, 7-5.