NEW YORK—World No. 20 Andy Roddick had a comfortable time of it this afternoon against 21-year-old American qualifier Rhyne Williams in their first-round encounter in Arthur Ashe Stadium. In a match only somewhat impaired by blustery winds, Roddick was never broken and pocketed the match in just under two hours, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.
Williams, who turned pro in 2011 after his sophomore year at the University of Tennessee, won three Futures events earlier this summer, all on clay, and his finest moments this afternoon reflected success on that surface. He repeatedly and successfully drop-shotted Roddick off both sides, taking advantage of his opponent’s preferred positioning well behind the baseline.
Though Williams, playing his first Grand Slam main-draw match, seemed impressively un-intimidated and held his first three service games, the veteran proved too experienced, powerful, and steady. Though Roddick demonstrated sartorial solidarity with Williams (each player wore red, white, and blue; Williams in his choice of shirt and shorts, Roddick with stars and stripes on his shoes), he didn’t show him any mercy: Once Roddick secured a break at 4-3 in the first set, he never looked back, breaking early in each of the next two sets and punctuating all three sets with aces, including one clocked at 141 M.P.H. (Roddick said in his on-court interview that he hadn’t hit a serve that hard in three years.) In all, he hit 20 aces on the day to Williams’ seven.
The one potential turning point arrived with Roddick up a break and serving at 2-1 in the third set. Williams earned his first and only two break point chances with an angled volley winner. Roddick saved the first with a 136 M.P.H. ace down the T, and the second with a King Kong-worthy smash at the net. He then held behind a 137 M.P.H. ace and a forehand winner on game point.
Roddick is a sentimental favorite here at the Open, and as a former world No. 1 and the last American to win the title, accorded center court status despite his current ranking. Before the match began, as the on-court announcer reeled off his accomplishments—including six unconsummated Grand Slam finals—it was poignant to watch him emerge from the corridor and begin his campaign. After the match, when asked what he wanted for his impending 30th birthday, Roddick answered, “I just want to be around next week, then we can renegotiate.”
Step one of that mission has been accomplished. Next up for Roddick is either Argentina’s Carlos Berlocq or Australia’s Bernard Tomic. After a year in which he’s bagged titles in Eastbourne and Atlanta but underperformed at the majors, nothing can be considered a given. But Roddick lives to fight another day, and he’s been around long enough to know that, for now, that’s enough.