LONDON, June 25 (Reuters) - Wimbledon’s forgotten man Andy Roddick was barely noticed as he slipped into the third round of the grasscourt championships on Thursday.
The American is one of only three players in the men’s draw — along with Roger Federer and Lleyton Hewitt — who knows what it feels like to contest a final at the All England Club.
But that did not mean fans were flocking to Court One to see the sixth seed in action against Russia’s Igor Kunitsyn.
Hundreds of seats lay empty in the arena as Roddick tried to improve on his disappointing second-round exit last year.
It was not only the fans who had deserted the 26-year-old, once tipped as the next great hope of American tennis when he won the U.S. Open in 2003.
The stadium has 61 seats assigned to the world’s media yet only two were occupied for the majority of the match.
Roddick, though, was not bothered that most people were writing off his chances of breaking the United States’s six-year men’s grand slam drought since his win at Flushing Meadows.
“This ain’t Candy Land. We can’t really make fantasy worlds up. You just kind of deal with it and move on,” he told reporters.
Those on hand to watch the 2004 and 2005 Wimbledon runner-up were treated to some slam-dunk action as the American bounced Kunitsyn out of the tournament 6-4 6-2 3-6 6-2.
Drawing on the skills he learnt as a basketball player at high school, one particular effort in the third set would have made even Michael Jordon proud.
He jumped so high it almost seemed as if he would disappear through the clouds as he ferociously smashed the ball away.
His shot almost beheaded a man in the stands who stood out thanks to his luminous green wig. After his close call with a Roddick missile, the fan decided he was better off blending in with the crowd and quickly removed the colourful hair piece.
While fans were left ducking for cover, as Roddick fired 18 aces, he was ruing his missed opportunities in the third set.
The American had break points in the first, fifth and seventh games and fluffed them all.
Kunitsyn added to Roddick’s woes when he broke for a 5-3 lead and sealed the set by wearing down his opponent in an eight-shot rally in the next game.
That effort appeared to take the fight out of Kunitsyn and Roddick dashed through the final set like a man late for a dinner date.
“The set I got broken I had numerous break chances... I knew I was getting the better of him,” Roddick, who next meets Austrian 26th seed Juergen Melzer, told reporters.
“I knew I was getting a lot more looks at his serve than he was at mine. Probably played my best set by far in the fourth.”
Editing by Ken Ferris; To query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org