WIMBLEDON, England - Andy Roddick was well into his swarm to the net yesterday when Daniele Bracciali, whose gift for tennis has remained anonymous during the years, cranked up one of his vapor-trail service returns, leaving Roddick half a nano-second to put his stamp on this gripping five-set match.
Whatever instincts take over in those situations, they were there for Roddick, who vaulted off both feet to his right, extended his arm, dropped his racket and bunted a soft volley back cross-court that left his Italian tormentor no play.
It wasn't a make-or-break point, but it was a very big, very athletic play and symbolic of how the 22-year-old pretender to Roger Federer's Wimbledon crown rescued himself from the ignominy of blowing two-set leads in consecutive Grand Slam tournaments.
Roddick's 7-5, 6-3, 6-7 (3), 4-6, 6-3 victory, which was played across two days because of darkness Thursday, sent him into the third round against Russia's Igor Andreev. Roddick was lucky to finish before the rain, which finally hit this tournament on the fifth day and washed out three men's matches.
Among them was No. 1 seed Federer vs. Nicolas Kiefer, which will be first on Centre Court today.
While No. 2 Roddick was winning his second match here, No. 3 Lleyton Hewitt, No. 10 Mario Ancic, No. 21 Fernando Gonzalez, who upset Joachim Johansson, No. 24 Taylor Dent and No. 26 Feliciano Lopez advanced to the round of 16.
It was a splendid victory for Gonzalez, who turned back one of the biggest servers on the men's tour, but the day belonged to Roddick, who at one point sensed he might be in for Groundhog Day - the movie in which events happen over and over and over.
"I thought about it. I thought about how to avoid that," Roddick said of his five-set loss to Jose Acasuso at the French Open. This match was in the same round and Roddick began to lose control of it at the same place - about midway through the third set.
"I know all you guys were there with your stat books, counting the last couple of losses in five, all that nonsense," he said. "It was definitely big for me to put one up on the board."
He did it in the same way Federer came back to beat him in last year's Wimbledon final - by going to the net.
Roddick volleyed well in the fifth, scoring nine times with volleys that led directly to points or forced errors. Roddick played just one serve-and-volley point in the first four sets, 14 in the fifth. At 2-2 and 40-love in the final set, he played serve-and-volley on a second serve and got the point.
It was a match Roddick probably should have put away Thursday. He was in full control and had not gone to deuce on his serve until he fended off Bracciali at 4-4 in the third. When he lost that set, as darkness descended on the court, he stormed off to the locker room. And when he came back yesterday, he still could not find his first serve.
Everything changed when Roddick started coming to net, usually attacking on a second or third shot. The break came in the sixth game.
At 30-40, he got a second serve in his strike zone and slammed it cross-court deep.
Bracciali's reply was to Roddick's forehand, and he plastered it deep to the other corner, forcing a wild shot by the Italian.
That made it 4-2, putting Roddick almost home, though he needed to fend off Bracciali in the next game. Had he failed to make an acrobatic volley that was the most sensational point of the match, he would've been down 15-40.
Instead, he was at deuce and 15 minutes later he was in the clubhouse, happy to prove he still can win five-setters.
In women's play, No. 3 Amelie Mauresmo beat Shenay Perry of the United States, 6-0, 6-2, and four Russians made the round of 16: No. 5 Svetlana Kuznetsova, No. 9 Anastasia Myskina, No. 6 Elena Dementieva, and No. 13 Elena Likhovtseva.
No. 1 Lindsay Davenport's match against Russia's Dinara Safina was washed out and rescheduled for today.
The Associated Press contributed to this article. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.
A. Roddick (2) def. D. Bracciali, 7-5, 6-3, 6-7 (3), 4-6, 6-3.
F. Lopez (26) def. M. Safin (5), 6-4, 7-6 (4), 6-3. T. Dent (24) def. T. Berdych, 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-3. L. Hewitt (3) def. J. Gimelstob, 7-6 (5), 6-4, 7-5. F. Gonzalez (21) def. J. Johansson (11), 6-4, 6-4, 6-2. M. Ancic (10) def. G. Monfils, 6-3, 6-3, 6-1. M. Youzhny (31) leads J. Bjorkman, 7-5, 6-3, 3-6, 4-4 (30-30), susp., rain.
A. Mauresmo (3) def. S. Perry, 6-0, 6-2. S. Kuznetsova (5) def. N. Vaidisova (27), 7-5, 6-7 (5), 6-2. E. Dementieva (6) def. M. Washington, 7-5, 6-1. A. Myskina (9) def. J. Jankovic (17), 6-0, 5-7, 10-8. E. Likhovtseva (13) def. S. Farina Elia (22), 5-7, 6-4, 6-4. M. Maleeva def. A. Serra Zanetti, 6-3, 6-2.