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AEGON Champs: Roddick not panicked by Queens defeat

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Originally published on: 10/06/10 19:16

So Rafael Nadal won his fifth French Open title last Sunday and pretty much everyone in the world with a vague interest in tennis uttered three little words. ‘Told you so’; probably to the TV, a plant pot, or some other inanimate object, since there were very few ‘actual’ people doubting Rafa’s chances of winning Roland Garros 2010 ahead of the tournament. The Spaniard’s stunning three straight clay masters 1000 triumphs in the run up to the clay slam had ensured that. Tennis is utterly predictable at times, some of those ‘told you so’ exponents grumbled.

So when Andy Roddick stepped out on Centre Court this afternoon for his third round bout with Dudi Sela, as with Rafael Nadal, the hacks were already prepping their latest serving of praise for the American in anticipation of another straightforward win on his favourite surface. Not since his Queens debut – nine years ago – had Roddick failed to make at least the last four at the AEGON Championships.

But today, on another murky-grey day in West London, came a spanner in the works, in the unlikely form of Dudi Sela.

A 25-year-old Israeli with nothing more than a first round defeat – to Viktor Troicki in 2008 – to his name at Queens, Sela flummoxed the four-time champ in straights sets. A break in game three did the job in the first set. An acrobatic lunging backhand – “first time I’ve done that,” Sela grinned – sealed his shock win in the second.

Credit where credit’s due, Roddick conceded afterwards, without a trace of complaint. “When he had to play defense, he played it. When he had that ball to step in, he didn’t hesitate. He stepped in, and he hit it.”

The American only had one concern in fact, when the realisation of defeat sunk in, he suddenly found himself with a glaring hole in his schedule. What to do now, eh?

“I’m open for suggestions. We can put a ballot box here. You locals can inundate me with ideas if you like,” he mused to the assembled press, before reassuring us all that the shock result wouldn’t dent his challenge for that elusive Wimbledon title.

“I’m not worried about being able to know how to play on a grass court. I know how to do that. A match at Queens isn’t gonna ruin what I’ve done on this surface for the last eight years and how I’ve started off this year.

“I wish I could play some more matches… but it will be fine,” he added quickly, almost in reassurance to himself.

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