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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.
To close the first set: ace at 141 mph. To close the second: ace at 134 mph. To close the third: ace at 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.
"You really don't see that shot," Williams said glowingly about Roddick's serve.
When Roddick won the U.S. Open in 2003, that was the last Grand Slam singles title for an American man, the longest drought in history for a country that produced the likes of Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors.
Roddick found himself in an era dominated by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal and, more recently and to a lesser extent, Novak Djokovic, who began defense of his U.S. Open title by overwhelming 69th-ranked Paolo Lorenzi of Italy 6-1, 6-0, 6-1 on Tuesday night.
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 Williams used her own powerful serve to right herself and beat Bethanie Mattek-Sands of the U.S. 6-3, 6-1.
One exit of significance: 2009 runner-up Caroline Wozniacki, who began the year ranked No. 1 but has struggled and was seeded eighth, lost 6-2, 6-2 against 96th-ranked Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania.
R First-round coverage: 11 a.m., 5 p.m.
TV • ESPN2