The first week of a major is all about upsets: Which highly seeded players won't survive the first few rounds? During the first week of this year's U.S. Open, we're counting down the top five most shocking upsets at Flushing Meadows.
2005, First Round: No. 68 Gilles Muller d. (4) Andy Roddick, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (8), 7-6 (1)
It was Roddick's 23rd birthday, but the 68th-ranked Muller was the one celebrating on the night the mojo died.
The lefty from Luxembourg, who beat Rafael Nadal in the second round of Wimbledon weeks earlier, slammed 24 aces to blindside the 2003 U.S. Open champion. Attacking the net with the conviction of a kid jumping the turnstile to catch the No. 7 train, Muller stunned Roddick in a battle between former U.S. Open junior champs that featured just two service breaks.
"I’m in a little bit of shock," said Roddick, the star of an American Express ad campaign entitled "Where's Andy's Mojo", which immediately became fodder for fans, media and a few late-night talk show hosts. AmEx execs were less amused—see the above damage control commerical—but you can understand why the credit brand was banking on a Roddick run. The American roared through the summer posting a 25-3 record, winning Queen's Club, reaching the Wimbledon final (where he fell to Roger Federer), taking the Washington, D.C. title, and falling to Federer in the Cincinnati final. Arriving in New York armed with four titles on the year, a semifinal appearance at the Australian Open, and a serve so big he left a bruise mark when blasting one to the body, most players predicted Roddick was a true contender to regain the title.
Instead, he was reduced to making sense of an excruciating loss. Fighting off five of six break points he faced, Roddick did not play poorly; Muller played a masterful match.
"I don't really remember a loss where I've felt this bad afterward," Roddick said. "I love playing here. I've probably had the best practice week I've had in lead-up and it just didn't translate tonight. I thought he played very well tonight. I just felt like the whole time I was trying to find something as opposed to just having it. I normally take control of the situation a little bit more than that whereas he was taking the first strike tonight."
Roddick reached 0-30 on Muller's serve in the 12th game of the third set and was two points from taking the set, but Muller, who faced just one break point in the match and none in the final two sets, held on to force a tiebreaker.
Targeting the Roddick backhand with his serve and lefty forehand, Muller delivered a service winner to take a 2-0 lead, which he stretched to 3-1 when Roddick netted an awkward slice backhand. A Muller mishit return gave him a 4-1 lead, and he followed with an ace. Finding the line with another forehand that elicited yet another backhand error, Muller earned a fistful of match points at 6-1. On the eighth stroke of the next rally, Roddick's backhand betrayed him, sending the ball softly into the net.
"If I'm calm, I feel like I can play with these guys," Muller said. "Like today, I was not feeling that he was No. 4 in the world and I was No. 70 in the world. I felt even in the second set, I was really the better player."
In his U.S. Open debut, Muller made history as the first man from Luxembourg to compete in the tournament, and the only man from his nation to appear in a Grand Slam.
"For me, it was unbelievable," Muller said. "This was the first time I was playing a night session match in a Grand Slam and I told myself to just go out there and enjoy it and I enjoyed every minute of the match. I told myself, 'Don't be nervous, it's a big chance to play there. The whole world is watching.' I took advantage of that every second I was out there. It was so much fun for me."
They reunited most recently in the Atlanta final, with Roddick scoring a three-set victory.