Andy Roddick's fate will have to wait

NEW YORK -- Paul Annacone, Roger Federer's coach, has been around big-time tennis for nearly three decades. He has an intuitive feel for the game and a very keen sense of its intricate dynamics.

So, when he was asked Tuesday whether Andy Roddick's career was going to end later that night against the widely favored Juan Martin del Potro, his eyes narrowed.

"Maybe," Annacone said. "Maybe. You never know. I think it's appropriate that he's going to end it here. A great player like that, you can never count him out.

"Especially here. But, admittedly, that's a big ask."

The answer was not immediately forthcoming, for rain entered the 2012 U.S. Open equation for the first time in a big way.

And so, the Andy Roddick victory lap will last at least another day; his fourth-round match against del Potro was suspended just before 9 p.m., with the 30-year-old leading a first-set tiebreaker 1-0.

The USTA, eyeing the ominous radar prospects, suspended play for good at 9:30.

Everybody loves a good cliffhanger, and now we have one, thanks to the remnants of the former hurricane known as Issac. It's looking more and more like there will be a fifth consecutive Monday men's final. Get ready for a lot more jokes about the USTA's plans for a $500 million renovation that doesn't include a roof.

If you have tickets to Wednesday's day session and the 80 percent chance for precipitation is a faulty forecast, you have hit the lottery. Not only do you get the bulk of Roddick-del Potro, but you get defending champion and No. 2 seed Novak Djokovic versus Stanislas Wawrinka (Djokovic is leading 2-0). As a bonus, it's Janko Tipsarevic against Philipp Kohlschreiber in the last fourth-round match.

On the women's side, there are three quarterfinals, because rain suspended Maria Sharapova's match with Marion Bartoli with the Russian trailing 4-0. Sharapova has to be thrilled with this interruption; she parlayed a rain delay in her previous match against Nadia Petrova into a winning result.

Wednesday's regularly scheduled quarterfinal matches are terrific: No. 1 Federer versus No. 6 seed Tomas Berdych and No. 3 Andy Murray against No. 12 Marin Cilic. For the women, it's Serena Williams versus Ana Ivanovic, and the Italian doubles team of Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci, one of whom will find herself a surprise semifinalist.

Roddick's match against del Potro was a nice slice of symmetry, as it featured the last two men to win the title here outside of the triumvirate of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Roddick was the 2003 champion as a 20-year-old, and del Potro won his only major at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center at the same age.

Although Roddick made headlines when he announced before his first-round match that this would be his last tournament, the No. 7-seeded del Potro has been quietly going about his business. This was his first appearance in Arthur Ashe Stadium, and early on, he was agitated and unsettled.

Rain all day had left the court soggy -- the humidity was 87 percent even when it wasn't raining -- and when Roddick raced out to a 5-2 lead, a frustrated del Potro yelled at the chair umpire in heated Spanish. He actually took a white cotton towel from one of the ball boys and, with a flourish, started wiping the damp baseline.

Like a palate-cleansing sorbet, it seemed to give del Potro a fresh start, and his game picked up dramatically. Roddick was serving for the set and led 30-love when a few loose points -- the last was a frozen-in-the-headlights forehand that sailed long -- gave del Potro the break and a look at a tiebreaker.

The rain had been coming down steadily for a few minutes when Roddick scorched a crosscourt forehand for his slender 1-0 lead.

Roddick might have been tight serving for the set, but when the match had been suspended, he laughed from his changeover chair as his coach, Larry Stefanki, danced comically in his seat. Roddick has been trying to drink it all in; he knows there won't be many more opportunities.

There has been an outpouring of tributes to Roddick, particularly from his friends and fellow countrymen.

Although Olympic doubles gold medalists Bob and Mike Bryan are four years older than Roddick, they broke through at the same time. They won their first Grand Slam titles in 2003, the same year they became No. 1.

"It's pretty funny that Andy's been the man for so many years," Mike Bryan said, "and now he's the last man standing."

True enough, Roddick is the last American man in the draw. He outlasted all those whippersnappers named Harrison and Sock and Johnson.

"I'd love to see him go out in a good performance," Mike said of his teammate on the winning 2007 Davis Cup team. "He's already put on a great show the first week.

"It's hard to imagine tennis without Andy."