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September 10, 2011

Sock, Oudin team to win U.S. Open mixed doubles title

NEW YORK — Jack Sock waited and waited for the ball to come down. When it finally landed out, he dropped his racket and ran arms outstretched toward Melanie Oudin.

NEW YORK — Jack Sock waited and waited for the ball to come down. When it finally landed out, he dropped his racket and ran arms outstretched toward Melanie Oudin.

The American teenagers captured the U.S. Open mixed doubles championship Friday, beating eighth-seeded Gisela Dulko and Eduardo Schwank of Argentina in a tiebreak to chants of "U-S-A."

Oudin and Sock won 7-6 (4), 4-6, 10-8 (tiebreak) in front of a sparse crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium after Friday's men's singles quarterfinals.

"Worked really well because he jokes a lot when we're playing and he keeps me relaxed, and sometimes that's what I have been having trouble with, is staying relaxed playing," Oudin said. "Then I'm very positive, so that helps him."

Sock is a four-time Kansas Class 6A champion from Blue Valley North.

He and Oudin had never played together before and needed a wild card to even get in the tournament. In the first round, they faced match point. In the second round, they faced top-seeded defending champs Bob Bryan and Liezel Huber.

Now they'll split $150,000.

"They're so young," Dulko said. "It's unbelievable what they did."

Despite their youth, the two aren't exactly strangers to the spotlight at Flushing Meadows. The 18-year-old Sock won a junior title in boys singles at last year's Open, then earned his first Grand Slam singles victory in the first round this year before being eliminated by Andy Roddick.

The 19-year-old Oudin was the darling of the 2009 U.S. Open, reaching the women's quarterfinals. But she's struggled to find consistency since.

"I feel like I have been playing pretty well playing mixed doubles. A lot of those things, like my serve and returning, is very important in singles," Oudin said. "I will have a lot more confidence, I think, going into my next singles matches coming up."

The Americans took a 8-5 lead in the tiebreak thanks to back-to-back mistakes by their opponents. Schwank hit a volley wide, then Dulko double-faulted.

Things got wild after Oudin and Sock earned triple match point. Schwank's first serve was ruled out; he challenged and the call stood. His second serve glanced off the tape and was also ruled out, which would have been a match-ending double-fault. He challenged again, and this time the call was overturned.

Schwank was awarded a first serve, then easily won the next two points on his serve to pull within 9-8, leaving Sock to try to serve out the match.

"I feel like I have been serving pretty well all week actually in mixed and even in singles, so I was very comfortable serving," Sock said.

He landed a big first serve, and Schwank's popped-up return carried just long. A final review confirmed that it was indeed out.

Nadal, Murray move on — Andy Roddick's legs felt fatigued. And defending champion Rafael Nadal was at his court-covering, groundstroke-whipping, serve-stopping best.

Hardly a good combination for the last American man in the U.S. Open.

Overwhelming Roddick right from the start, Nadal compiled a stunning 22-0 edge in forehand winners, broke six times and never left the outcome of their match even remotely in doubt, winning 6-2, 6-1, 6-3 to reach the semifinals for the fourth consecutive year.

What was it like for 2003 U.S. Open champion Roddick to be out there, his own game faltering and Nadal's as good as it gets?

"It's a bad feeling. It's almost worse than competing," Roddick said. "You feel helpless."

Nadal took the first four games in 18 minutes. He then reeled off 16 of the last 17 points — including 12 in a row — to close the second set.

Seeking his 11th Grand Slam title, Nadal has yet to drop a set heading into today's semifinal against No. 4 Andy Murray, who beat No. 28 John Isner 7-5, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (2) earlier Friday.

"It will be a very tough match for me," Nadal said, "and hopefully for him, too."

Rain earlier in the week led the U.S. Tennis Association to delay the men's final from Sunday to Monday for the fourth consecutive year, and forced Roddick and Nadal on court for a third straight day. But only Roddick felt the effects, saying his sluggishness stemmed from a four-set victory over No. 5 David Ferrer on Thursday.

Murray, like Nadal one of tennis' top returners, weathered 17 aces at up to 140 mph from the 6-foot-9 Isner but repeatedly got back serves topping 130 mph and managed to break twice in a row bridging the first two sets.

"It's so frustrating playing against him because you feel like you're playing good tennis, and it's so hard to break him," said Murray, who has won his past 10 matches.

While Murray is a three-time Grand Slam runner-up, Isner was playing in his first such quarterfinal, and he acknowledged that jitters affected him at the outset.

"I wasn't swinging out like I felt like I should have early on in the match. I was just guiding the ball," said Isner, who lives in Tampa, Fla. "That was a little bit of nerves. It just took awhile to free up."

The other semifinal was set up by Thursday's quarterfinals, and it'll be a big one: No. 1 Novak Djokovic against No. 3 Roger Federer, who has won five of his record 16 Grand Slam championships at the U.S. Open.

He'd better be, given what lies ahead against Nadal.

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