By John Delong
Steve Darcis pulled the first major surprise of this year’s Winston-Salem Open on Wednesday afternoon as he stunned fifth-seeded Andy Roddick 7-6 (6), 7-6 (3).
The 28-year-old Belgian, who at No. 81 was the last player to make the cut for the Main Draw, said that even he was surprised at the way he frustrated Roddick throughout the match and then prevailed in both tie-breakers.
"I didn’t expect this when I came here," Darcis said. "You know, I was not playing so good coming here, but I played two good first matches and I played very good tennis today. Andy did not play his best tennis, but for me it’s a great win before the US Open.
"For me, it’s unbelievable. To beat Roddick here in the United States, it’s bigger than to beat him somewhere else."
The win moved Darcis into Thursday’s quarterfinals, where he will meet second-seeded Tomas Berdych. He knocked off the World No. 7 Berdych in the first round of the London Olympics three weeks ago.
Darcis had beaten Xavier Malisse and Denis Istomin in the first two rounds, after coming to Winston-Salem thinking he would have to go through qualifying. When the field of commitments was announced in July, he was seven spots out of securing a spot in the Main Draw. He actually found out that he would make the Main Draw on Friday, shortly before the draw ceremony.
He didn’t make it out of the first round of qualifying at Cincinnati last week.
"I was lucky," he said. "I was seven out on the first list. I got in at the last minute. But you need some luck sometimes. This is good for me because I was not playing so good. I went to Cincinnati and it was not a good week, so I was not confident before this tournament. But now I’m playing good tennis and I hope it continues."
There were no service breaks in the entire match, with Darcis facing only one break point all afternoon and Roddick facing only three. Darcis got early leads in both tiebreakers, and then never buckled to any pressure.
"Tiebreaks can be very stressful, so it’s very tough when you reach the tiebreak," Darcis said. "I think I served really good in the tiebreaks and I was really aggressive when I could be, and on his serve I tried to return and then really fight. I knew he could miss, so I had to be patient and wait for the right moment."
"I think I got a little bit unlucky there in the first-set tiebreaker, a couple of dicey points that were a little unlucky," Roddick said. "The second-set breaker, he played better than I did. But bottom line, I needed to put more pressure on his service games. There were no breaks the entire match, and if I don’t lose serve I should do fine and I didn’t. So that speaks to the rest of my game."
Roddick, No. 21 in the latest ATP rankings, had defeated James Blake 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5) in the second round after getting a first-round bye.
He’ll now go to the US Open having lost two of his three hardcourt matches since the Olympics. He admitted this was a setback in his Open preparation.
"It’s better than having not played anything and I still have a couple of days to get on the practice courts and work on a few things, but make no mistake, I wanted to play better here," Roddick said. "You enter this tournament to try to win it. That being said, I got in a couple of matches and I still have a little bit of time, so I’ll be fine."
In other afternoon matches before rain forced a suspension of play, fourth-seeded Alexandr Dolgopolov defeated 14th-seeded David Nalbandian 6-3, 6-4; and seventh-seeded Sam Querrey beat ninth-seeded Feliciano Lopez 6-3, 6-4.
Querrey played the first match of the day on the Harold and Mildred Southern Stadium Court, and he jumped on Lopez early, racing to a 5-0 lead in the first set.
"I thought I served really well and I thought I returned great," Querrey said. "It was one of my better returning matches. He’s got a tough serve, especially being left-handed, and I thought I returned well with the forehand and backhand, especially on his first serve. When I can do that, I’m pretty tough to beat."s Gulbis beat Kevin Anderson 6-4, 7-6 (2), and No. 6 seed Marcel Granollers beat Ryan Harrison 6-4, 6-2.