Wednesday, February 15, 2006

SAP Open: Will the Real Andy Roddick Please Stand Up?

February 19, 2006

"Beating Roddick in his home country is like a dream come true. I have so much respect for somebody like Roddick. He's achieved so much. It was great for me to be on the same court as somebody like him. To actually win against him is amazing."

-- ANDY MURRAY, on defeating his first top ten player Andy Roddick.

Is anybody else getting sick of all these young-guns always getting their "first big win" over Andy Roddick? Why can't somebody else be the career springboard for once?

Murray def Roddick 7-5 7-5

Ho hum. Another day, another loss to an unranked player. So stunned was I by this latest joyful news that I just couldn't wait to make a beeline to this blog to update it. I don't know what's more depressing: the fact that Roddick isn't making good on his promise to "get back to the meat and potatoes" of his game and "be more aggressive" or the fact that I'm no longer shocked by these kinds of results.

But Andy Murray is no fluke, and the fact that he took out former 2002 SAP Open champion Lleyton Hewitt in the final in three sets is proof that Murray is on his way towards great things in his career. Murray's counterpunching style of play is exactly the kind of game that troubles Roddick. Regardless, it still doesn't take the sting out of Roddick's loss because once again, Andy did not play HIS game (the one where he intimidates opponents with his aggression and makes wicked inside out forehand winners) and he beat himself long before his opponent did.

I sure do miss the old Andy Roddick.

WHO'S GOT THE ANSWERS? If Team Roddick doesn't find any answers soon, his Top Ten ranking could be in jeopardy.

Andy Murray has come of age a bunch of times in the past eight months, but, on Saturday, he took a major step toward becoming an elite player when he tripped up Andy Roddick 7-5, 7-5 in the SAP Open semifinals.

That not-so-stunning win earned him a final-round clash against a fellow brilliant counter puncher, two-time Slam champ Lleyton Hewitt, who downed American veteran Vince Spadea 6-3, 6-4.

It was a virtuoso performance from Murray, who served with authority and precision, picked off Roddick's big first serve time and time again, kept him at bay with his backhand and passed beautifully.

The 18-year-old Scot has terrific anticipation, a good sense of what's right and what's wrong on court and whole lot off guts. He outplayed Roddick through and through, a contention that is buttressed by the fact that he nailed 25 winners to only 14 from the American.

Roddick was impressed, as was every one of the 11,247 fans in attendance

"There are a lot of guys that move well but when they get there they force it," Roddick said. "Andy is really good at playing within himself when he's on the run. He's not afraid to find something to do with the ball. There were a lot of times when I felt I'd hit the ball fine in the corner, hit three in a row with good pace and I'd be back at neutral," Roddick said. "I could get the ball to go through the court like I would have liked. It was frustrating.*Maybe I forced it too much."

Possibly, but Roddick is stuck being playing attempting to play super aggressive again and going to a more defensive posture once he gets stuck in rally. When he's not dominating with his forehand, he may need to be patient until he can sneak into net or coax an error out of his foe.

Murray said, "It's very important against guys like Andy to play consistently and not give away too many free points. I did change the pace quite well.* I mixed it up quite well."

But just try getting Murray to over hit or play dumb won't work because it doesn't happen often.

"He plays with his head. I'd be surprised if he's not in the Top 20 very soon," John McEnroe said.

The 18-year-old Scot could have gone away quietly after Roddick charged out of the gates, but that's not his nature. He has an innate sense as to how to dig into matches and once he found away to block back Roddick's serves a la Roger Federer and Hewitt, he became the frontrunner.

Murray has a very fine first serve (his second still needs to be improved) and consistently had Roddick guessing. Roddick says that Murray's serve reminds him of Todd Martin's – a high toss and the same motion every time that's very tough to read. "He can hit it all four ways on both sides," Roddick said. "He served real well and that got him out of trouble a lot and he returned well. I hit a bomb at my spot and he'd block it back and I'd be back to neutral again."

After Murray broke Roddick to 6-5 in the first set when the American missed an inside-out forehand, it was clear that the kid was in the driver's seat.

He won the set with a beautiful forehand crosscourt winner and continued yanking Roddick around in the second set. He broke Roddick to 3-2 in the second when he scalded a ball in between Roddick's feet. But Roddick finally clawed back, breaking to 3-3 when Murray missed a forehand. However, Murray was deep into Roddick's service games and even though Roddick managed to fight off three break points and hold to 5-4, he couldn't get a mental edge.

At 5-5, the Scot blasted running backhand crosscourt pass and then watched Roddick miss on a forehand to grab the break. "He stayed tough. That pass was pretty impressive," Roddick said. Murray was up 30-0 in the final game, but Roddick hit a return that clipped the net cord and gingerly fell over onto Murray's side off the court. It was then that his nerves shook the Scot.

"It made me think is this going to be my day or is the luck going to go his way?" Murray said. "I served my first two double faults in the last game." Murray doubled faulted on his first match point at 6-5, but then fought off a break point by charging the cords.

"But when I was break point down I came into the net. I was a little nervous, but I have a little experience against the best players now that I know when they start to come back on me that the worst way to play is defensively," Murray said. "Today I played more aggressively and it paid off."

On Murray's second match point, Roddick let a forehand go long. "I was almost a little sick because of nerves but in the end I came though," Murray said. "That was definitely my biggest win. Beating Roddick in his home country is like a dream come true."

Murray's story is pretty familiar now: his breakthrough win at Wimby over Radek Stepanak; his heroic five-set victory over Andrei Pavel at the US Open; his run to the Bangkok final where he eventually fell to Roger Federer; and then his upset of Tim Henman at Basel. But, his win over two-time defending champ Roddick indoors is quite special given that it was the fist time that he downed a Top-10 player.

"At this time last year I was losing in the qualifying of Challengers and now to be in the final off an ATP tournament less than year later is pretty hard to believe," Murray said. "I always believed I could get here, but maybe I wasn't expecting it quite so soon."

So now it's on to another former No. 1, Hewitt, who hasn't won a title in 13 months but who looked quite strong against Spadea. That may pose a bigger challenge than Roddick, who still isn't 100 percent.

"I'm looking forward to playing Hewitt," Murray said. "Now that I've won against a top-ranked player it gives me that extra bit of confidence that I can do it. I had chances against Top-10 players before and didn't take them. This time, I did. … I'm going to have to serve very well, play very consistent. You have to take your opportunities against him because he hardly makes any mistakes. He has a great attitude and goes for every ball. When I have a chance to attack, I'm going to have to go for it. I don't want to have to get involved in too many rallies against him because he can last pretty much everyone on tour."

Murray then went on to beat Hewitt in the final 2-6 6-1 7-6(3) to win his first ATP title.

To Andy's credit, he did not go into his post-match interview and claim that he played well and that "the other guy was just too good" yadda yadda yadda, the usual crap he spews. For once, he was actually aware of his bad playing.

"It just seemed like I couldn't get the ball to go through the court like I would have liked," Roddick said. "It was difficult. I wasn't getting much bite on my service action. It was frustrating."

Andy Murray said his service returns were key. "He [Roddick] obviously didn't serve as well as he can. I don't know if that was because I was returning very well or if he just wasn't feeling as confident as he normally was," Murray said.

Also impressive was the fact that Roddick stopped to sign autographs for his young fans, even though he was obviously upset by his loss and wanted to leave the court as soon as possible.

"It's always tough [losing]. But you know the good thing about tennis is that there's always next week."

-- deep thoughts, by ANDY RODDICK.

* * *
Up Next: The Regions Morgan Keegan Championships (Memphis, Tennessee)

Next on Andy's schedule is the Memphis tournament, which he had won back in 2002. Andy is seeded No. 1 and will begin play on Tuesday with his first round opponent (and good friend) Mardy Fish, who is coming back after a long absence due to having wrist surgery. I was going to say "poor Mardy Fish!" but with the way Andy's been playing lately, a first round loss to a player he owns wouldn't be out of the question these days.

February 18, 2006

SAP Open: Roddick to Battle the other Barfing Andy

Roddick def Phau 6-3 6-2

There we go! There's the routine win I've been wanting to see. Well done, Andy.

Andy advances to the SAP Open semifinals to meet for the first time, one Mr. Andy Murray, Britain's new great white tennis hope. Andy Murray also has the distinction of vomiting during a match with Andrei Pavel (as Roddick did a week ago) so it will be a Battle of the Barfing Andys!

I'm not quite in agreement that Murray is a "longshot" against Roddick. In case nobody has noticed, Andy Roddick hasn't really played like Andy Roddick in about two years. LOL.

From the San Francisco Chronicle:
Murray Knows He's a Longshot Against Roddick

A teenager made it into the weekend of the SAP Open. So did the two-time defending champion, and 18-year-old Andy Murray will be the clear underdog in tonight's semifinal match against top seed Andy Roddick.

Nobody knows better than Murray himself.

"I'm not going to have much of a chance of winning," he said.

The Roddick-Murray match will start at 7 p.m., following a 1 p.m. semifinal between third seed Lleyton Hewitt and Vincent Spadea. With Andre Agassi withdrawing one day before the tournament, a Roddick-Hewitt final is the anticipated scenario. [. . .]

Meantime, a nation is turning its lonely eye to Murray, the youngest player to reach this tournament's semifinal round since Michael Chang in 1988 and youngest player in the top 100. He made an extraordinary jump in the rankings last year, from No. 514 to No. 65. He's currently No. 60 and increasingly becoming the best hope for the future of British tennis.

The last time a Brit won a Wimbledon title was 1936, and Murray is constantly reminded. Countrymen Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski are higher ranked, but Murray beat Henman in the quarterfinals in Basel, Switzerland, the first time Henman lost to a British player since falling to Rusedski in 1998.

Before Roddick overpowered Bjorn Phau 6-3, 6-2 in Friday's feature match, Murray overcame a first-set loss to beat Sweden's Robin Soderling 4-6, 7-5, 6-4. Murray trailed 3-1 in the second set when he made a magnificent forehand cross shot to mystify Soderling and win the game, reversing the momentum of the match.

"Once I did that, he played a pretty sloppy game," Murray said.

Early, Murray seemed to battle himself, making mistakes and expressing frustration. One time, he was assessed a code violation for an "audible obscenity." Another time, after watching a Soderling ace whiz by, he seemed to lose it completely -- he used a tennis ball to engage in a one-man exhibition of hacky sack, ending the routine by catching the ball on the back of his neck, to the delight of fans. [. . .]

Murray has made it to the semifinals just one other time, at Bangkok, where he beat Soderling before falling to Roger Federer in the finals, and Soderling predicted Murray won't be a pushover for Roddick today.

"It's going to be a tough match," Soderling said. "Roddick is serving well. At the same time, Murray is returning extremely well."

Roddick, the world's third-ranked player, will play his fourth straight San Jose semifinal and has won 13 straight matches in the tournament. Against Phau, he was accurate on 72 percent of his first serves, many topping 130 mph. He had eight aces.

Asked about facing Murray, Roddick said, "He's going to come with a lot of energy. It should be exciting. ... It's easier for you when you're younger. The first time I played Pete (Sampras), I played out of my head. I was so excited. You have zero to lose, and that makes it pretty easy."

TV Alert! Don't forget that both of the SAP Open semifinals and the final are being televised by some Fox stations across the nation so check here to see if it will be available near you.

International viewers, the semifinals and final will be broadcast on Eurosport2, Sky Mexico, and FOX Sports Australia and Middle East. Click here for the TV schedules.

February 17, 2006

SAP Open: Roddick Advances to Quarterfinals

Roddick def Carlsen
6-3 1-6 6-3

Boy, do I miss the days of easy, routine wins from Andy in the early rounds. The first set was routine and I know he eventually won this match but all my eyes see is that crazy 1-6 second set loss. Andy rarely loses a set 1-6. And now he's done so to Carlsen. OK, I guess if he can lose a first-round slam match to Gilles Muller then he can lose serve twice to *cough* Kenneth Carlsen. But please refrain from further brain farts, please, Andy.

And I guess I will take it as a good sign that he at least managed to recover, saw what he needed to do, and then did it to take control of the third set. Carlsen never got a whiff of Andy's serve after that. Relief! Hopefully Andy will continue to build on this because if he's going to meet Lleyton Hewitt in the finals (if I dare dream that far) he's got to play a lot better and with more belief in himself. Think to yourself, Andy: Cincinnati....Cincinnati....Cincinnati....

From The Mercury News:
Pushed more than expected Thursday night at HP Pavilion, Andy Roddick delivered quite a finish. The SAP Open's top seed won a marathon rally on a crucial break point and fired a 133 mph ace down the middle on match point.

Roddick advanced to the quarterfinals with a 6-3, 1-6, 6-3 victory over tour veteran Kenneth Carlsen before an announced crowd of 5,315. Roddick will play Bjorn Phau in the featured match tonight. John McEnroe's doubles match will follow.

"I'll take some good things from this one,'' Roddick said after extending his winning streak in San Jose to 12.

The victory Thursday turned when Roddick, at 30-40 on Carlsen's serve, won a breathtaking rally two games into the final set. It took about 20 exchanges before Roddick's crosscourt forehand put his opponent in a defenseless position. When Carlsen's backhand sailed into the net, Roddick exhaled and then grabbed a seat behind the baseline to rest.

The break of serve made it 2-0 and was all Roddick needed.

From there, the two-time defending SAP champion called on his big serve. Four of Roddick's nine aces came in the final set.

“I had a really bad stretch in the second set,” Roddick said. “I was dumping balls at one point. He had momentum on his side, and sometimes the best time to set the tone is at the beginning of a set."

Two days after playing what he called "average'' in a first-round victory over Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, Roddick was more encouraged.

"This is better, with the exception of a really bad three-game stretch in the second,'' Roddick said. "It was a pretty good first set, and I competed well in the third.''

The difference in the opening set was one service break, and it was a gift from the 69th-ranked Carlsen. He double-faulted on break point to go down 2-4.

Carlsen answered in the second set, breaking Roddick's serve twice to stretch the third-ranked player to a winner-take-all set.

Roddick was ready.

"The third set I was able to step up and hit the ball a little harder and a littler deeper,'' he said. "That was key for me."

Andy's quarterfinal opponent will be Bjorn Phau, starting tonight at 7:00pm San Jose time. If Andy gets past Phau, his semifinal opponent could be Andy Murray. Looking forward to that one. Bring the barf bags.

February 15, 2006

SAP OPEN: Valentine's Win for Roddick

"I'm not really questioning it [the line call]. I'm telling you you're wrong."

-- ANDY RODDICK, doing what he does best: yelling at chair umpires.

"Valentine's is only invented to get men into trouble.”

-- ANDY RODDICK, typical male.

Roddick def Garcia-Lopez
6-3 6-4

Stop the presses! The big news isn’t that Andy won his opening match or that his good friend James Blake lost his match, but that Andy has REDISCOVERED COLOR. Yes, folks. After weeks of our having to endure the drab, boring, uninspiring all-white outfits, Andy finally opened the Lacoste drawer and realized that the polo shirts come in a rainbow of great colors. For yesterday’s match he busted out the burnt orange color. How very imperfect for Valentine’s Day, wouldn’t you say? But it’s a vibrant color so I’ll take it. I think I was more excited to see him wearing color again than to see him win his opening match.

From the San Francisco Chronicle:
Roddick's 'average' is pretty good

One day after Andre Agassi caused a stir by not showing up, defending champion Andy Roddick made more predictable news Tuesday night by grinding out a 6-3, 6-4 first-round victory over Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.

Roddick's presence attracted a crowd of 7,610 to HP Pavilion, including Hall of Fame baseball player Reggie Jackson and many females holding signs expressing their fondness for Roddick. He responded with a performance he called "average," balancing his dominant serve with occasionally careless mistakes.

At one point, Roddick unleashed a 136-mph ace and followed that with a 141-mph ace. At other times, he strangely seemed unable to handle Garcia-Lopez's serve.

"I didn't have my best stuff tonight, but I got through it," Roddick said.

Garcia-Lopez, a 22-year-old Spaniard ranked No. 89 in the world, came into the match with a notable victory on his resume -- he beat Agassi in the quarterfinals at Delray Beach two weeks ago. That outcome made sense at times Tuesday night, as Garcia-Lopez exchanged booming serves and fierce groundstrokes with Roddick.

Then again, Garcia-Lopez made plenty of costly errors, such as the open-court forehand he sent wide late in the first set, allowing Roddick to break serve.

The second set stayed on serve until 4-4, when Roddick blasted a backhand winner down the line to break Garcia-Lopez. Roddick responded by flinging both arms skyward in a gesture equal parts excitement and relief.

"I knew the match was on my racquet at that point," he said. "That shot definitely felt good."

The match came less than a week after Roddick hired his brother, John, as his latest coach. Roddick parted ways with Brad Gilbert little more than a year ago, then did the same with Dean Goldfine last week.

"Everybody brings something different to the table," Roddick said. "With John, it's nice having a comfort zone there. I've known him so long and I know he's not afraid to give me his opinion."

* * *
Another addition to Team Roddick?

Tennis Week floated the idea out that Andy is lobbying to get Paul Annacone to coach him on a part-time basis. Annacone is the former coach of Pete Sampras and current part-time coach of Tim Henman (what do these two have in common? Brilliant volleying skills. Hmm…)
Annacone, an aggressive serve-and-volleyer who would attack net off opponents' first and second serves, would be a valuable addition to Roddick's team prior to the start of the grass court season. While the laid-back Annacone is not the fiery personality some feel Roddick requires to pump him up, Annacone could help Roddick both technically — with Roddick's volley and particularly his backhand slice approach — and tactically in helping Roddick improve his point construction. Annacone, who briefly served as a coaching consultant for Jennifer Capriati, is adept at teaching grass-court tactics.

An excellent addition he would make, if it's true.

* * *
Dear John, Please Kick Andy's Ass. K. Thanks.

Jon Wertheim thinks Andy may finally have found the right coach for his skills in brother John. From this week's SI mailbag:
With Andy Roddick's new coaching change (brother John), dare we say that Andy is at a crossroads? I know Dean Goldfine, and if Roddick cannot "get" it with Dean on board, he may never. -- Mike, McAllen, Texas

Lots of questions about Roddick this week. Usually when you hear that a close family member is coaching a player, you roll your eyes. Too often it has the ring of a parent or older sibling unwilling to give control and money to someone else. And the players rationalize it: I'm choosing comfort and familiarity over expertise. But often they know they can run roughshod over family in the way they couldn't over someone unrelated. If I were 20 and Harold Solomon had told me to do extra laps, I'd be off and running. If I were 20 and my dad/coach had told me to run extra laps, I'd be a lot less inclined to listen.

Anyway, I think this could be the exception. John Roddick was probably a better junior player than his younger brother. He was an all-America at Georgia and may well have been a pro had he not come down with a back injury. He's been running an academy in Texas. Clearly there's tennis know-how here. There's familiarity with Andy's game. And because he is significantly older perhaps -- in that Michael/Carl Chang kind of way -- they'll have some semblance of a professional relationship.

Goldfine is a popular and well-respected, but Roddick's results had tailed off on his watch. Doesn't mean the guy is to blame. Doesn't mean the guy wasn't good at his job. But it must have been getting increasingly hard to justify keeping the guy on the payroll. Several of you, incidentally, inquired about swallowing pride and rehiring Brad Gilbert. Nick and Jessica will get back together before that happens.

What's John Roddick objective? Getting Roddick to improve his court positioning should be high on the list. If you have a 100-mph fastball but you're pitching from second base and not the pitchers mound, you're a lot less effective. But a lot of the problem is identity. The free-swinging Roddick, who ruled the roost in the summer of 2003, had a swagger that didn't desert him. He whipped lasers. He fired his serve. He took chances. He dictated points and didn't mess around with backhands. Sometimes it seems that Roddick is so intent on proving that he's a well-rounded player, that he forsakes his weapons. It might be helpful if he said simply, "My game is what it is, I need to play it."

Also, I don't have time to discuss it here but please click on the news article below titled "Roddick Finding Tough Love Now." Good read.


Noelle De Guzman said...

One wonders if Andy's color-blind; he might have thought the shirt was red? I'm kidding, but apparently other people have thought it, particularly the writer of the "Tough Love" article. :D

idunnowhatosee said...

I even wonder if I'm color-blinded too. Isn't it red? *blinks* *wonders if I should check to my optometrist*
Well, not so red but not so orange too.

fax_modem said...

Glad Andy has a new color, perhaps he finally realize we have color TV? ^^

partygirl said...

i was there and i think it was RED!but others who were there say orange.

leave it to andy to pick a color nobody understands.:lol:

-springboard MAKES ME UNHAPPY-

Live said...

Indeed, I too miss the OLD ANDY RODDICK...

Please, who ever stole the old Andy, give it back right now! Andy needs it!

P.S. tangerine, I love your blog. Keep up the good work

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