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Steady Roddick rolls on in Washington

By Steve Ginsburg

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Top seed Andy Roddick used his powerful serve to overcome the steady groundstrokes of Grega Zemlja and defeat the little-known Slovenian 6-4 6-4 in the second round of the Washington Classic Tuesday.

Roddick blasted just four aces but won 90 percent of his first serves and never faced a break point in beating the 128th-ranked Zemlja in 84 minutes.

"Tonight it was like a pitcher's count in baseball," Roddick told reporters. "I wasn't behind. I wasn't battling the love-15, 15-30 games. I was control of my own service games, which was good.

"I didn't dig myself many holes out there."

In other matches at the $1.2 million U.S. Open warm-up, Spanish third seed Fernando Verdasco staved off two match points in the second set before emerging with a 4-6 7-5 7-6 victory over gritty left-handed German Michael Berrer.

Fourth seed Marin Cilic of Croatia eased past Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan 6-4 6-2, while American Mardy Fish won his 11th successive tour match with a 6-4 6-3 victory over Viktor Troicki of Serbia.

American John Isner, who played the longest match ever at Wimbledon in June, defeated 21-year-old Dutchman Thiemo de Bakker 7-6 7-6, winning the final-set tiebreaker 10-8 to gain revenge over the man who knocked him out of the grasscourt grand slam.

Despite being a qualifier, the 23-year-old Zemlja did not back down against Roddick, relentlessly firing his crisp groundstrokes against the ninth-ranked American.

EIGHT ACES

Zemlja had eight aces but was broken once in each set to suffer defeat in his first career match against Roddick.

"The points he was winning he was having to come up with really good shots," said the 27-year-old Roddick, bidding for his fourth title at the Washington tour stop. "I wanted to put the ball in spots that made it difficult for him to attack in.

"I did that pretty well. The balls that he was aggressive on were low balls that he would have to get down the line, switching directions. That becomes a high-risk shot for him.

"He pulled a fair amount of them off. He looked real good on a lot of points but in the end he lost four and four."

Roddick has played just one tournament since his disappointing five-set loss to unheralded Taiwanese Lu Yen-hsun in the round of 16 at Wimbledon.

"I accomplished what I wanted to tonight," he said. "I wanted to get into some rallies early, get my feet under me and move the ball around, mix up paces and with different heights."

In the third round, Roddick will face talented Frenchman Gilles Simon, who needed only 52 minutes to blitz Igor Kunitsyn 6-1 6-2.

Isner lasted 74 minutes the last time he met De Bakker a day after completing his 11 hours and five minute epic against Nicolas Mahut, but was far from happy with his performance despite winning the match.

"He served great, just like I did," said Isner, who drilled 15 aces. "I didn't play horrible out there. I just wasn't that sharp. But I competed pretty well, that's what kept me in it.

"But honestly, he was probably the better player tonight."

(Editing by John O'Brien)

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