Andy Roddick beat Roger Federer for the first time since 2008, and after the exhibition tennis match at Madison Square Garden jokingly thanked New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin for giving him inspiration as an underdog.
Roddick, who has lost 21 of his 23 tournament matches against Federer, defeated the record 16-time Grand Slam winner 7-5, 7-6 (9-7) last night in the BNP Paribas Showdown in New York.
Roddick’s victory came in the same arena in which Lin, the first Harvard University graduate to play in the National Basketball Association since 1954, has helped lead the Knicks into playoff contention after being cut by two other teams.
“I feel like Jeremy Lin wanted me to win,” Roddick told the crowd of 18,079. “I felt his energy in the building, so I had to try to pull through.”
The event, featuring four players with more than 140 singles titles and 20 Grand Slam victories among them, was part of a collaboration with the U.S. Tennis Association’s Tennis Night in America initiative to promote youth participation in the sport.
Roddick’s win came after Maria Sharapova of Russia, the second-ranked women’s player in the world, beat No. 4 Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark 6-3, 6-4 in the first exhibition.
Though Roddick has slipped to 31st in the world, he remains the best-known American men’s player even with Mardy Fish and John Isner ranked ahead of him.
Federer, 30, of Switzerland, was playing two days after beating Andy Murray in Dubai for his 72nd career ATP Tour title. Before last night, he had won his past six matches against Roddick, whose lone Grand Slam title came at the 2003 U.S. Open.
“We’ve had some great battles over the years in all the great stadiums and this is one of them, so I’m glad we did it,” Federer, who’s ranked third in the world, told the crowd. “I wish I could have pushed it” to a third set.
While the match was competitive, the exhibition also featured lighter moments.
Roddick, 29, imitated second-ranked Rafael Nadal of Spain during one point, pulling his sleeves up to expose his arms and grunting loudly during a volley. When he won the game with a cross-court drop shot, Roddick celebrated with an imitation of Nadal’s signature fist pump.
Roddick took a break at another point to get an autograph from actor Ben Stiller, who was sitting in the front row.
Both players also attempted between-the-legs shots during a rally, with Federer succeeding and Roddick sending his into the net. Roddick threw his racket toward the net in mock frustration afterwards, almost hitting a ball girl who wasn’t paying attention.
Roddick broke Federer’s serve twice in the first set, including for a 6-5 lead. In the second set, Roddick withstood three set points and won the final three points in the tiebreaker to pull out a rare victory against Federer.
“It was pretty clear that I’m obviously in Roger’s head and he didn’t quite know how to deal with it,” Roddick joked. “He’s not really good under pressure, as you saw in that tiebreaker. He has no idea how to play me, so I just capitalized on that.”