Aug. 28, 2012
NEW YORK -- Former Vol Rhyne Williams did not win his career U.S. Open debut Tuesday at the USTA Billie Jean National Tennis Center, but the experience was hardly a total loss.
He got to face American legend Andy Roddick. He played on Arthur Ashe Stadium, America's most famous court. No longer was Williams playing in front of dozens of spectators like he's done at most of his Futures stops this year; try thousands of fans.
The money wasn't bad either. He pocketed $23,000 for winning three qualifying matches to reach the main draw, more cash than he has earned in the first eight months of the season combined.
On Tuesday, Roddick showed why at 30 years old, he is still among the best America has to offer against Williams. The veteran's world-class serving abilities were on fully display in Williams' 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 loss.
While the result means Williams won't move on to the second round, he now knows what to do moving forward.
"I had a chance to sit down with my cousin after the match and we talked briefly," Williams said. "I have to get a lot stronger, a lot quicker; those are the two main things. I feel like I hit the ball well and I have a pretty good game I think; I know how to play the game. It's mostly a physical maturity thing. I've only been at this for one year, so I've got a lot of work to do."
While Williams had a strong day serving for the most part as well, three poor games spelled the major difference for the former Vol.
He was broken at 4-3 in the first set on his way to losing five games in a row. He also dropped his serve to start the second and third sets, putting him in a hole early against the 20th seed.
Once Williams fell behind, opportunities to stage a comeback were hard to come by. Still renowned as one of the top servers in tennis, the 30-year-old Roddick basted 20 aces, with several of them topping 140 mph. Williams had three break points in the match but was unable to capitalize.
On a breezy day on Arthur Ashe, Williams took advantage of forehand drop shots, frequently drawing Roddick up to the net.
"That was more drop shots than I've hit in my career," Roddick joked in his press conference.
Both Roddick and Williams saw similarities in each other's games. Both rely on strong serves and forehands.
"We both have a good serve and a good forehand and move around the court pretty well," Williams said. "I mean, growing up I was always trying to develop my serve and forehand just like Andy did. I think he's a great guy he's an unbelievable worker. He works as hard as anyone out there and I respect him for that."
Williams, the 2011 NCAA singles finalist, isn't leaving New York just yet. He and former Southern California standout Maria Sanchez are the first substitute mixed doubles pairing to get in the draw if any teams pull out.
"I'm going to stick around for a couple days and see what happens," Williams said.
Tennessee fans next opportunity to watch Williams play in person will likely be the $50,000 Knoxville Challenger, which is held on Tennessee's Goodfriend Tennis Center in November.