Saturday, March 25, 2006

Nasdaq-100 Open: Triple-Word Score on Roddick

updated April 1, 2006

"I feel like I'm on the verge of playing really good tennis again."

-- ANDY RODDICK. Which is why he gets another Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card from fans like myself.

QF: David Ferrer def. Andy Roddick 6-3 4-6 6-4

Photo gallery updated. Includes dozens of photos from the Verdasco and Ferrer matches, all tag-free!

Video of a shirtless Andy and covered James Blake practicing from the other day. 8MB .mov file.

Video of Roddick vs Greul R4 match highlights here.

Video of Roddick vs Verdasco R3 match highlights here.

Video of Roddick vs Martin R2 match highlights here.

Audio clip of Andy from a skit on "Saturday Night Live" has been added to my growing naughty audio collection.

News wire: Andy Roddick shanked a service return, sending the shot straight up, then took off his cap and used it to catch the ball. Give Roddick credit for trying to make the best of a bad day.

SCRABBLE THIS. Roddick's finally learning to stop the bleeding.

Andy may have lost but he did make the quarterfinals (picking up some much-needed points even though he will stay at No. 4 for a while), appears to be finding his confidence again, and his attitude has much improved. Congrats to him on a very good tournament and an excellent showing of improvement!

This match with the tricky David Ferrer had "upset" written all over it. But some in the media were curious about Roddick's inexplicably good mood after another "bad loss" but had they been watching him as closely as we have for the past year or so, they would know why this loss isn't as bad as it appears to them.

Yes, on paper he probably should not have lost to Ferrer (who some dismiss as being just a claycourter, but that is misleading because Ferrer is really a multi-surface player), but seeing as how Ferrer had him at matchpoint at the Paris Masters indoors last year, it isn't like Roddick should have steamrolled over him this time. Ferrer has an excellent return game which is an automatic headache for Roddick. Besides, Roddick could have very easily lost to the likes of the unkown qualifier Simon Greul in the previous round. The fact that he did not may actually prove to be the turning-point in his current slumping form. Let's put it this way: Roddick may have lost, but he's finally finding a way to stop the bleeding.

Nick Bolleteri commented about Andy's improving backhand:
Roddick is beginning to flex his muscles and feel like his old self again. His weapon, the big serve, paid handsome dividends in his last match. It was successful because he had the rhythm and timing required, rather than just trying to beat the tar out of the ball. Roddick’s two-handed backhand has height, depth and spin, but he must be very cautious of over-slicing.

Another reason why this could be considered a good loss is the second set, which he won on a DTL backhand winner (!). After losing the first set (his first serve % was an embarassing 35%, with 5 winners to 15 ue's!) he adjusted his game, getting his serve to finally work again (80% first serve, 13 winners to 15 ue's). The third set had both players on even keel except that Roddick still could not keep the ue's down (19 in the third set, compared to Ferrer's 8). In the end, his sloppiness is what cost him and Ferrer kept his head together and was solid throughout the entire match. No Roddick roller-coaster ride for him.
News wire: Roddick's biggest weapon -- the serve -- betrayed him against the 11th-seeded Ferrer. In the first set he made only 35 percent of his first serves. He was broken four times in the match and lost 20 of 30 points on his second serve.

But he hung in there and almost managed to overcome his 49 unforced errors.

"I like where my head was at as far as competing," Roddick said. "I played terrible the first set, but I was able to regroup and not lose it. That's a sign of confidence coming back."

Roddick's good humour throughout the match is also indicative that some weight has finally been lifted from his shoulders. Whether this is due to the James-Blake-effect, the Brother-as-Coach-effect, or what, I don't care. I am just so pleased to finally see the return of a happy, relaxed, and fun-loving Andy Roddick out on the court again and I hope he sticks around for a long time.

Roddick ousted by Ferrer
U.S. tennis player Andy Roddick dropped into a chair in the interview room and ran a hand through the fuzz on his nearly shaved head, his mind alive with introspection after yet another unsatisfying tournament finish, this one a quarterfinal loss, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, to Spaniard David Ferrer in the Nasdaq-100 Open.

But unlike two weeks ago at Indian Wells, when Roddick fell in the fourth round and unloaded weeks of frustration and disgust at a news conference that he described as "funeral-like," Roddick looked at Thursday's disappointment and, finally, saw something positive.

Finally, he said, he has stopped getting worse.

Once considered the next great male American tennis star, Roddick, 23, lately has been reduced to taking solace in bumping up against the semifinals of major tournaments, but he says he's on the brink of returning to the thrashing tennis that pushed him to the world's No. 1 ranking in 2003, when he soared to stardom with his U.S. Open victory.

"I feel a lot better leaving this tournament than I did a couple of days before this tournament.. I feel like I'm on the verge of playing really good tennis again," he said after the match that pushed the 11th-ranked Ferrer into a semifinal matchup Friday against top-ranked Roger Federer. "For the first time in probably two months, I feel like the process is one that's going up as opposed to trying to keep it here and not fall down. . . . Inside me, that feels good." [. . .]

Roddick, who along with Blake will join the U.S. team against Chile next week in the Davis Cup quarterfinals, hasn't won a Grand Slam since the 2003 U.S. Open. This season alone, he has lost five matches to players ranked below No. 25, results that led him to declare that he wasn't "captain of Team Fun" in Indian Wells. This week, he said, he began getting his confidence back, despite failing to take the third set after breaking Ferrer to move to 4-4.

"I feel like I played pretty well this week," Roddick said. "This was probably the best I actually struck the ball. . . . Parts of my game were really good at times through the whole tournament. It's just a matter of trying to take one from here, take one from here, and kind of put them together."

Roddick said he's trying to move forward by going backward. He joked -- albeit darkly -- two weeks ago that he used to crush forehand winners despite eating Cheetos all day. The more professional he became, the worse his tennis became. This week, he said, he tried to relax. If practice wasn't going well, he quit and went back to his hotel.

"I feel like I changed and I tinkered," he said. "I'm getting back to un-tinkering. . . . I just mellowed out a little bit."

He has, not surprisingly, another new coach, his fourth in three years. After climbing to superstar status under Brad Gilbert then firing him as Federer moved past him in 2004, Roddick has struggled -- first under Dean Goldfine and now under older brother John, whom Roddick hired in February. John Roddick operates a tennis academy in San Antonio.

A reporter asked: How are things going with your brother?

"Better than it was last week," he said to laughter. "No, it's fine. It's nice. It will all be okay."

For the record, Roddick challenged two calls in the QFs. He is now 1-2 on challenges.

And once again, Roddick is a star in his post-match interview. Only he could manage a way to work Scrabble into his interview. There's a reason why his interviews are always so long and why most others are rather short. LOL. You can read his entire post-match interview here.
Q. Do you feel your game is pretty much -- you don't need to change or tinker --

ANDY RODDICK: I feel like I changed and I tinkered and now I'm kind of getting back to maybe untinkering - wow, that's a great Scrabble word if it's in there.

Q. No shot.

ANDY RODDICK: No? Dude, you know what's in there? "No shot." You'd be surprised. I have a Scrabble dictionary, yes, I do. "Za," short for pizza.

Q. No.

ANDY RODDICK: Swear. I promise you. What do you want to bet? What do you want to bet? In the Scrabble dictionary -

Q. "Untinkering," eleven letters.

ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, but it's just a matter of getting a "K" on a big word score because it's worth five. "Za" is in the dictionary - not in "the" dictionary. In the Scrabble dictionary, official rules, it's in there. I promise.

I never realized how hardcore the Scrabble word fanatics can be though:

Roddick Tinkers With Scrabble
Former world number one tennis player, Andy Roddick caused a firestorm amongst recreational and championship level Scrabble players, setting off a fury of e-mails to John D. Williams Jr, Executive Director of the National Scrabble Association, Hasbro who distributes Scrabble ( and the National Scrabble Association website ( causing both sites to crash. The controversy began during Roddick's prolixic, post match interview, where he claimed that the word "za" was an actual word in his Scrabble Dictionary. "Za, it's short for pizza. I swear. I promise you. What do you want to bet? In the Scrabble dictionary," Roddick claimed.

As it turns out, "za" is a new word, "just added to the Official Scrabble Dictionary," explains John Williams Jr. "I'm truly impressed that one of our top American athletes like Andy shares the love of words that we at Scrabble do, and I'm confident that this little misunderstanding will expand the game of Scrabble and American vocabularies."

Mr. William's message did little to suppress the anger of some of the Scrabble players, like Mario Sandrini, who claimed, "I am very disappointed that I had to get my Scrabble dictionary update from some washed up tennis player. What's next, the news from NASCAR?"

"We were flooded with e-mails of outrage over the new word 'za'," says John Williams Jr.

One e-mail claimed that he may sue over a lost Scrabble game with his grandmother because he could have used "za" with the "z" on a triple letter space, going vertically and horizontally, resulting in a 62 point word.

"While we understand the players' frustration, it is not the responsibility of the NSA to ensure that everyone has the latest edition of the Official Scrabble Dictionary, which can be purchased for $20.00US at [url],"[/url] explained John Williams Jr.

One thing is for sure, Roddick may not be decimating the competition on court, but he is "k"illing them, "with K on a big word score," at Scrabble. -- AP reporter Robert Seleshfan

* * *
Topspin2 News

I love that Andy Roddick and Maria Sharapova are on the cover for the new TopSpin 2 game (click on the photo for game details). Very sharp-looking. Very ironic. Very good business money-making scheme. ;) reports Get Ready for Top Spin 2:
If you liked the original Top Spin computer game produced by 2K Games you are going to love Top Spin 2. The new and updated version of the hugely popular tennis game is set to have fans glued to their X-box, Nintendo and Gameboy Advance for hours upon end!

Top Spin 2, set to be released on April 3, is hugely anticipated for its wide array of the world’s best tennis players, Player Creator, innovative game play, and breathtaking visuals. As well as taking on the computer, fans will be able to take on each other all over the world through X-box Live.’s favourite, Andy Roddick, will be one of the many players fans can control in the game and you will be able to try and take him all the way to the finals of the Top Spin 2 Championship! Other players featured on the game include Maria Sharapova, Roger Federer, Lindsay Davenport, Venus Williams, James Blake and Amelie Mauresmo.

As well as playing as your favourite player, you will be able to create yourself on the game by choosing name, skin colour, hair style, gender, outfit and country. After honing all your tennis skills to be the best possible you will be able to compete at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. See if you can recreate Andy Roddick’s terrific run to win the US Open in 2003!

Top Spin 2 is due to be released on April 3, stay tuned to as we bring you more exclusive details about what will surely be the hottest game on the market!

* * *
Davis Cup next

Happily, up next for Andy is the Davis Cup, where he'll join teammates James Blake and Mike and Bob Bryan April 7-9 on the grass courts at Rancho Mirage, California to play the Chileans in the quarterfinals.

Chile, which has never won the title and is in the quarterfinals for the first time since 1982, will be represented by 19th-ranked Fernando Gonzalez and No. 43 Nicolas Massu in singles, with Paul Capdeville and Adrian Garcia also on the team.

The US has a 3-0 lead over Chile in their head-to-head but they have not met since 1978.

Continuing from Andy's post-match interview:
Q. What's your plan in terms of the clay court season?

ANDY RODDICK: I'm not sure yet, to be honest. Obviously, Houston is a huge priority for reasons that extend beyond tennis.

But right now, to be honest, I haven't thought about it. My focus right away goes to let's get to the semifinals of Davis Cup, and I'll probably have a better idea of where my head's at after Houston.

Q. Speaking of Davis Cup, how much of an adjustment will it be for you to go on the grass next week, or it's just automatic?

ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, I'm like jonesing at it, at the chance to get there, you know. Instead of two weeks a year on grass, I get three now, so that's great.

But normally I just go right into it. I mean, the first day at Queen's a lot of years I'll be playing sets already. So I guess where a lot of guys just feel, you know, you can take a lot of guys and just put them on a clay court and that's, you know, that's where home is, that's kind of the way I feel on grass a lot of times.

Q. Where will you be for the Blake match tonight?

ANDY RODDICK: I am going to stick around. I'm gonna stick around and check it out.

Like I said, my focus is on Davis Cup now. If James can get through, obviously, I think that can only help us for next week. You know, like I said, popcorn match.

Matthew Cronin over at seems to think that Patrick McEnroe needs to consider other players for the Davis Cup slot besides a slumping Roddick:

Please Say Something, ESPN
Let me say this to ESPN crew (web site included) in the nicest way possible: it's okay to have an opinion, that's what you are paid for. You won't get fired. "Wow!" is not an opinion. Letting Andy Roddick determine the course of a commentary is not analytical.

Using the "told reporters" line after a player speaks isn't very informative either. "Argued with a specific reporter on a specific topic" illuminates what's going on more. So when I was on a Davis Cup conference call with captain Patrick McEnroe this week, I let the captain know that before Andre Agassi got hurt, a number of folks batted around the idea of a US Davis Cup team that sported Agassi and James Blake as singles players, not Roddick - who is in a bad slump and is capable of beating most players as he is losing to them (hence, the David Ferrer loss). Even though Roddick's been McEnroe's main guy all along, his DC results in the team's past four matches have not been stellar:; he's posted 4-4 record. Oh sure, he's a great grass court player when he's confident, but he's almost just good on hard courts and lost to Andrei Pavel in La Jolla last month. And guess what? Fernando Gonzalez is just a big as a threat on grass as Pavel was on hard.

PMac was heated when asked whether Roddick's spot was at risk.

"Come on, Roddick is four in the world. He may be three by the time this is over. He's gone through a rough patch for a couple months. Let's be real here, Roddick has been a consistent Top-5 player or better in the last couple years. Has he had a tough stretch? Yes. Does he know that? Do I know that? Yes. Do I think he's right on the cusp of turning it around? Yes. Do I know his record from Wimbledon the last couple years? Yes. Are we playing this match on grass? Yes. That's a no-brainer. "

Not to me it wasn't had Agassi recovered and played well in Miami. But, at this point, it is, because only Blake has been playing well and Roddick is far better than any other American available - lack of confidence or not. But Roddick needed to beat Ferrer to regain some mental stability and also could have used a tight match with Federer. Now all he's going to Rancho Mirage with is the hope that he can turn things around, not a fundamental belief that he will.

"I have total confidence in him," McEnroe said. "I love his work ethic. I love his intensity. I believe that it will come around."

I can respect Cronin's opinion that a slumping Roddick should not be the automatic DC choice these days, but I also agree with PMac that it's a "no-brainer" to pick Roddick for a tie that's being played on grass. And if PMac is defensive about Roddick, I don't blame him. Nobody has had to withstand as much media criticism and bashing as Roddick, and Patrick MacEnroe as his captain and friend obviously feels the need to defend his top player. Who wouldn't?

Let's suppose that Roddick IS dropped from the DC team, then what? Who does Cronin suggest PMac pick for singles after Blake? Robby Ginepri? He's been in a worse slump this year than Andy has. Andre Agassi? His sciatic nerve problems keep getting worse and he has not played on grass in two years. Taylor Dent? Is Dent really the go-to guy for clutch play? Mardy Fish? Fish is returning from two wrist surgeries and is hardly match fit these days. Vince Spadea? The fifth wheel of the 2004 Davis Cup team? Sure, Team USA could always use a water boy, I guess.

So as you can see, Mr. Cronin, once you get past Roddick and Blake, the pickings are rather slim.

The only part I don't get in Cronin's Op-ed is the line "Letting Andy Roddick determine the course of a commentary is not analytical." Huh? Since when did Andy Roddick become an ESPN commentator?

* * *
Cute local news item that can't be categorized

Entertaining little news tidbit that means nothing but made me smile anyway:

Boulder City Courts Notoriety
The public tennis court at Hemenway Park in Boulder City will be one of five across America featured in a new U.S. Tennis Association national print and broadcast campaign.

The selection of the court in Southern Nevada is supposed to show that tennis is a recreational sport that can be played virtually anywhere.

Until the ad campaign, Hemenway Park simply was billed as "Just Another Court in Southern Nevada That Andy Roddick Has Never Set Foot On."

Fix that little publicity problem, Andy.


Nasdaq-100 Open: Roddick into the Quarterfinals

"There's a lot of tennis left in this season. It's impossible for it to be a wash after two months."

-- ANDY RODDICK. Don't write him off just yet.

R4: Andy Roddick def Simon Greul 6-3 3-6 6-2

R3: Andy Roddick def Fernando Verdasco 6-3 6-4

So The Player Formerly Known as Andy Roddick has made it to the quarterfinals of the NASDAQ-100 Open for the third time. Hurray! In doing so, he stopped the unexpected and impressive run enjoyed by the German qualifier Simon Greul in one hour 33 minutes, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2.

This win is an important one for Roddick, who lost in the second round last year. This enables him to pick up important ranking points in an effort to get back to the number three ranking in the world, which is currently occupied by David Nalbandian.

Greul may be a qualifyer but he had dispatched Tim Henman in the previous match (who had finally beaten his nemsis Lleyton Hewitt, for the first time in their career meetings), and facing a new opponent with nothing to lose, Roddick could have very easily lost to Greul, in much the same way that he lost to Andreev, Benneteau, Muller, and too many others lately. For Roddick to recover from that second set loss and take the third set in such dominating fashion is encouraging.

It's wonderful to see his serve finally cracking again like it used to. His serve stats were absolutely "sick" (to use Patrick McEnroe's favorite word).

And still more encouraging is to see the growling "don't mess with me" Roddick back in action. Let his detractors whine and complain about Roddick's "antics". We've all seen much worse. His being aggressive and loud is what made him a champion to begin with. So keep it up, Andy! Loving it.

HOW YOU LIKE THEM APPLES? Huh! Show me the money! Hey, I'm talking to you, punk. YOUR MOMMA. Call Miss Cleo, your ass is grass. ... Roddick makes trash-talking fun again.

It's also very nice to see a smiling, happy Roddick when the match is completed. That's been an all too rare sight for the past year. Before, even after he convincingly won a match, he would rarely smile or look pleased; as if the weight of the world were still on his shoulders. But that seems to finally be dissipating and it's great to see a happy and relaxed Andy out there (to go hand-in-hand with the re-emerging growling bully oncourt ;) ).

Andy's quarterfinal opponent will be the Spaniard David Ferrer who was last seen giving Andy quite a scare in the quarterfinals of the Paris Masters Series last year. Andy knows the challenge that faces him on Thursday. Good luck!

For the record, Andy has made one line call challenge in three matches and was proven wrong. He's 0-1.

Audio from the match over here.

Post-match video interview here.

Video match highlights here.

Video match highlights from the Verdasco match here.

The E! Entertainment channel re-aired an edited version of Andy's 2003 appearance on "Saturday Night Live" the other night. I have only recently discovered the joys of making obscene .wav files featuring Andy so here's one from SNL that you can listen to over and over again on your iPod. ;)

Roddick Reaches Miami Quarterfinals:
Andy Roddick may be out of the NCAA pool, but he's still shooting for a place in the Nasdaq-100 Open final four. The fourth-seeded Roddick won 16 of the final 19 points played on his serve to quash qualifier Simon Greul, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 and advance to the Nasdaq-100 Open quarterfinals at Key Biscayne's Crandon Park today.

Delivering nine aces and denying Greul on one of the two break points he faced in the match, Roddick's imposing serve propelled him through the decisive set after he played periods of passive tennis in the second set.

"I can still play better," Roddick said. "I'm kind of finding my way through matches. I played terrible at the beginning of the second set. I didn't put returns in the court and kind of took my foot off the gas, which is a mistake, and he got back into it."

It wasn't Roddick's best tennis, but he competed with composure against Greul, who mixed it up enough to create a nuisance in the second set. In some of his recent losses, Roddick's frustration has put him at an emotional break point on court, but today he channeled his temper into positive intensity on pivotal points. Rather than choking the handle of his blue Babolat as if arm wrestling his racquet, a relaxed Roddick regained some of that seismic snap on his serve with the looser grip.

"I think I'm playing a lot calmer now," Roddick said. "I'm competing a little better. I'm not worried trying to win every point or win the match in every point. I'm kind of staying a little bit even-keel and I'm serving 10 times better than I have this year, which is a big, cause I feel more comfortable with those peaks and valleys, knowing that my serve is going to keep me in it, still going to be a dominant shot."

The 130th-ranked Greul played well just to reach the fourth round. Greul saved two match points against Ricardo Mello in qualifying before dispatching 38th-ranked Paradorn Srichaphan, 17th-seeded Dominik Hrbaty and 2005 quarterfinalist Tim Henman in succession. Playing tight tennis at the outset of today's match, Gruel dropped serve in his opening game and quickly fell behind 3-0. Roddick ripped a forehand pass crosscourt to reach set point and when Greul bashed a backhand beyond the baseline, Roddick walked to his court-side seat with the first set in hand after 29 minutes of play.

Swinging more freely in the second set, Greul disrupted Roddick's rhythm by occasionally playing off pace backhands before abruptly stepping around his backhand to blast a forehand punctuated with a grueling grunt. It was a pattern that proved unsettling for Roddick in the second set as Greul hit a return winner to break for 4-2. Consolidating at love with a forehand winner marked by another scream that appeared to annoy Roddick, Greul served out the set two games later and Roddick prepared for some schizophrenic tennis in the final set.

"It's a little awkward. Like he plays some points where he just crushes every ball and then does the big grunt thing," Roddick said. "Then some points he kind of stays back and doesn't really hit the ball. You know know what part of him is going to come out in a point really. I let him into the second set a little bit and then he started playing great towards the end of it. It's definitely a little big of an awkward match up."

Greul took a bathroom break at the end of the second set; Roddick took charge at the start of the third set. Roddick reeled off eight straight points to open the third set before smacking an ace down the middle to stretch his lead to 3-0.

"I think at the beginning of the third set, he pushed himself a lot and was very aggressive," Greul said.

Before losing the match, Greul won consecutive challenges, a streak that roused the crowd. Chair umpire Mohamed Lahyani overruled against the German's ace, but Greul challenged and replay showed the shot touched the line, restoring the game-ending ace. Greul won a second challenge on a Roddick serve, initially ruled in, that replay showed out.

"I can't be angry about that because the right call was made," Roddick said. "I'm sure there are going to be times when it's going to be the situation reversed. I think you're okay with it as long as you know it's the correct call being made."

The successful challenges were winners with the crowd, but Greul would need more than video victories to pull off another upset.

"(It's) great for the fans," Roddick said. "When he challenged those two and were right, they were going nuts. So it just adds another element. I don't think there are a lot of negatives to it."

Though the tour shifts surfaces to clay next month, Roddick believes his best tennis is still on the horizon with the upcoming grass-court and hard-court summer seasons.

"The way I see it, my two favorite times of the year are still ahead of me so there's a lot of time left," Roddick said. "I've always said that when I finish two in the world, when I finish three in the world, those are very, very good years. I always said I'd rather finish seven or eight and win a Slam. That's a great year as opposed to those other ones being very good years. There's a lot of tennis left in this season. It's impossible for it to be a wash after two months."

Roddick back to 'barking and growling'

Andy Roddick, who has yet to reach a final this year, got a scrappy win over qualifier Simon Greul to make it to the quarters.

The Tennis Player Formerly Known as Andy Roddick, the self-assured one who spits out 135-mph serves like a Pez dispenser, showed up Tuesday on Stadium Court. Well, glimpses of him anyway, and that was enough to shake off pesky German qualifier Simon Greul and earn a spot in the NASDAQ-100 Open quarterfinals.

Normally, a three-set victory over the world's 130th-ranked player would not be reason for Roddick to be chipper, but Roddick has yet to make a final this year, had lost five matches to players ranked below No. 25, and admittedly had his confidence shaken. Gutting out a 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 win is exactly what he needed.

When Greul, who had knocked out three top-60 players, got back-to-back line calls reversed electronically in his favor, Roddick didn't throw a fit. He didn't roll his eyes and get down on himself. He won four straight points and two consecutive games to seal the victory.

"He had to grub it out, do that whole Alpha-dog thing, do some barking and growling," TV analyst Mary Carillo said. "You want to see a little foam at the mouth. That's why he's so happy with this win. He's been losing those kind of matches. He needs a good run, and he could get one here. Nadal's gone, Agassi's gone, Safin's gone. He's putting in the work and he needs to catch a break."

And that might come in his next opponent, David Ferrer of Spain, who could be weary after a marathon three-hour, 17-minute victory over Olivier Rochus that Ferrer called "the tightest match I've played in my life."


For his part, Roddick is keeping things in perspective. But he was in a good mood after his match, joked about his NCAA Tournament bracket and said his matches on Key Biscayne have been encouraging.

"I can still play better," Roddick said. "I'm finding my way through these matches. I think I'm playing calmer now. I'm competing a little bit better, and I'm serving 10 times better than I have been this year, which is a big, big plus for me because I feel more comfortable with those peaks and valleys knowing that my serve is going to keep me in it, still going to be a dominant shot."

He said he has simplified his workouts, stopped "obsessing" and has allowed himself to relax, particularly on his serve.

"I was trying to force a little bit," he said. "I remembered that I've always been able to hit a big serve and I haven't always been gripping my racket this tight, trying to break the grip. I've relaxed a little bit more, and as a result of that, I've gotten a lot of the action back in it."

Despite all the questions about his slump, and newspaper articles chronicling his troubles, Roddick insisted he isn't worried.

"I'm never going to get too excited over a bad two-month stretch," he said. "I'm going to be mad, but the way I see it, my two favorite times of year [grass and hard courts] are still ahead of me, so there's a lot of time left. It's impossible for it to be a wash after two months."


Standing firmly in Roddick's corner is U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe, who named Roddick and Blake and doubles twins Mike and Bob Bryan to the team for the upcoming quarterfinal against Chile.

"Let's be real here -- Andy Roddick has been a consistent top-five player or better in the last couple years," McEnroe said "Has he had a tough stretch? Yes. Does he know that? Do I know that? Yes. Do I think he's right on the cusp of turning it around? Yes. It could happen this week.

* * *
Davis Cup News

It's fair to say that the Americans learned their lesson about taking any Davis Cup team lightly after they were gobsmacked by the Croats in last year's first round match. If the Chileans somehow think that the Americans are going to take the Dynamic Duo known as Massu and Gonzalez lightly come their Davis Cup quarterfinal match, they've got another thing coming. As reported by The Miami Herald:
Andy Roddick and James Blake are ranked higher than Nicolas Massu and Fernando Gonzalez, and the Americans play better on grass than the Chileans, which is why they chose the surface for the upcoming Davis Cup quarterfinal. But the U.S. team is not taking next week's match lightly because Chileans have a history of playing over their heads when representing their country.

Massu won the gold medal at the 2004 Olympics, Gonzalez won the bronze, and they teamed up to win gold in doubles.

"They play very well for their country, and I know they're not going to concede anything," Roddick said. "They're two very tough players who have had success against me and the Bryan brothers."

U.S. captain Patrick McEnroe, who had an easy time selecting the team after Andre Agassi announced he is taking an indefinite layoff to heal his back, said: "Playing Chile represents the next step in our ultimate goal of bringing the Davis Cup back to the U.S., and I have full confidence in this team."

The winner of next week's match will play France or Russia in the semifinals in September.


Nasdaq-100 Open News and Preview

R2: Andy Roddick def Alberto Martin
6-3 6-1

DOUBLES: Roddick/Ginepri def Coria/Manrique 6-2 7-5

Click on the picture to view Andy's oncourt interview after defeating Alberto Martin (.mov file, 13MB).

Click here for the Nasdaq-100 ESPN2 TV schedule.

''The handsome ones with good legs, like Andy Roddick and Roger Federer.''

-- A YOUNG TENNIS FAN, when asked what she liked most about attending Nasdaq-100. Poor Andy Roddick not only has competition from Federer on court but also in the legs department.


Burning questions for Nasdaq-100
As the tennis world descends upon Miami, here are the most pressing questions.

What's happening to Andy Roddick?
The 23-year-old American seems to be suffering from a bout of self doubt. He's still ranked No. 4 in the world, but he hasn't reached the final of any tournaments this year and has -- at least in his case -- a lackluster record of 11-5. The technical flaws in his game have been well chronicled -- a shaky volley and a tendency to stand too far behind the baseline. But he had these same flaws when he won the U.S. Open in 2003 and held the No. 1 ranking. The six straight losses he has suffered to Federer seem to have gotten inside Roddick's head, and he may have been too quick to dump Brad Gilbert as his coach in 2004.

Can James Blake do some damage in Miami?
Yes, but it's hard to envision him winning the tournament. The 26-year-old American is off to a great start this year, with a record of 19-5 and two titles. After his runner-up finish in Indian Wells on Sunday, Blake's ranking rose to a career best ninth in the world.

He has added patience and resolve to his physical weaponry, which no one ever challenged. So now he's a threat to beat anyone in the world, as he has proven in taking out Nadal in their last two matches. But Blake choked when presented with an opportunity early against Federer last weekend, and it remains unclear whether he's mentally ready to win a big event.

Men to Watch
Andy Roddick: Though he admittedly is frustrated and in a slump, Roddick still has the power and athleticism to make a deep run. All he needs is a good win to boost his confidence, and he could take off from there. ''I am not the captain of Team Fun right now,'' he said. Roddick has advanced to just one semifinal this year and has lost to four players ranked below 50.

James Blake: Arguably the top American player right now with a 19-5 record and two titles this year. Blake beat Nadal in the Indian Wells (Calif.) semifinals and broke into the top 10 (No. 9) for the first time in his career. He also happens to be among the nicest and most scholarly players on tour.

The story surrounding Andy Roddick these days is no longer when he'll beat Roger Federer or regain the No. 1 ranking, but whether he'll find his mojo again and break out of this funk. Anybody who thinks Roddick hasn't been in a befuddled slump is blind/stupid/kidding themselves. Everybody has taken notice of Roddick's troubles lately and everyone feels the need to offer some armchair analysis, un/helpful advice, and proffer a shoulder for him to cry on.

"I'm going to be fine whether or not I win tennis matches. I'm just mad. I'd love to perform at my best. That's the frustrating part. I'm not."

-- ANDY RODDICK. Don't cry for him.

Roddick eager to rebound from funk
A few dozen diehard fans -- and the newly installed instant-replay screens -- stared down onto center court on a sunny Monday afternoon as Andy Roddick, determined to get out of a funk, whacked balls with his hitting partner in preparation for this week's NASDAQ-100 Open in Key Biscayne.

Roddick, drenched in sweat, politely declined to be interviewed afterward, saying only that he was ''eager'' to get back on the court after losing in the fourth round in Indian Wells, Calif., last week.

At a booth nearby, NASDAQ-100 Open officials unveiled the men's and women's main draws line by line, eliciting a loud murmur when Marat Safin was paired with Tim Henman in the first round, the winner facing Lleyton Hewitt in the second round.

* * *
The Anti-Cheetos Man: James Blake

It's hard to focus on a slumping, seemingly depressed Roddick when his good friend James Blake has been busy tearing up the courts, winning over millions of new fans, and making his first MS final last week after blowing through the likes of Tommy Haas (who unfortunately got hit with a bout of food poisioning), Roddick-killa Igor Andreev (destroying him 1 and 4. See Andy? That's how it's done.) Rafael Nadal (again), only to fall to Roger Federer in the end (take heart, James, everybody falls to Roger. LOL). If you haven't been inspired by Blake's heart-breaking story and his subsequent run to the Top Ten this year, you are cruel, heartless, and Vince Spadea will see you in hell for it.

It is also hard to ignore Blake because some in the media seem a bit too eager to start the funeral procession for Roddick and proclaim Blake his successor to American tennis -- as if there were no room at the top for two American players. Give me a break.

Speaking of rankings, thanks to Blake, there are now three Americans in the Top Ten (Roddick - 4, Blake - 9, Andre Agassi - 10); the first time since 2000. Hurray! I'll enjoy it while I can because if Agassi's recent withdrawal from the Nasdaq-100 due to his continuing back spasms problem is any indication, Andre will be out of the Top Ten in short order soon.

James Blake's story tends to go hand-in-hand with Roddick's, so don't be surprised if you see me discussing Blake often in this blog (as well as other American players). Why? Because they are friends, they have a history, and it's inevitable that with each of the young Americans' successes, the media will compare him to the current Top Dog, Andy Roddick. Not to mention that their healthy, competitive natures and comraderie are a joy to watch, especially during Davis Cup. When I say "they" I am not only referring to Blake, but to Mardy Fish, Robby Ginepri, and Taylor Dent, all of whom seem primed to do some damage this year and finally make good on their own promising talent.

James Blake's response to the media shoving Andy out of his way (from his post-match interview this afternoon):
Q. Real quickly, are you comfortable being called America's No. 1?

JAMES BLAKE: Not yet. That's for sure. Andy has dealt with this for years now. He's proven himself. He's won a Grand Slam. He's won Masters Series titles. He's dealt with so many things. The pressure that he's felt on his shoulders and done such a good job of really maturing and growing up under the public eye, and that's something that I'm very impressed with. I'm really proud of him.

So he's still No. 4 in the world and is, in my mind, America's No. 1. I'm happy and proud of him. Right now I'm playing great tennis, but it's ‑‑ as much as being in the top 10 means I played good tennis for a while, being No. 4 and at one time being No. 1, finishing the year No. 1, means you've been playing really good tennis for a long time. He deserves the credit. Even if I were to ever pass him in the rankings, until it's something that I've done day in, day out, month in, month out, and possibly for a year, then I don't feel like I deserve that title quite yet.

I'm happy to leave the pressure on him. He does a good job of handling it.

It's not too late to jump on the Blake bandwagon.

Blake, Roddick host bash in Miami
James Blake knows he's in town for business, but first, the former Harvard star took care of some pleasure.

Blake and Andy Roddick hosted a Nasdaq-100 Open players party at the Delano Hotel on Wednesday night.

In a city crawling with spring breakers, aspiring models and an always present night life, Blake said he's trying to stay focused on his tennis game.

"Miami is great," Blake said. "I'm trying to do my best to avoid distractions and get ready for tomorrow."

He mingled poolside with guests, posed for photographs with admiring female fans and lounged in a cabana with friends.

Roddick, who went to high school in nearby Boca Raton, used the event to catch up with family and friends.

"It's always nice coming back here," he said. "First and foremost, it's about playing tennis, but it shouldn't be too hard to have a good time tonight."

Dressed in tiny shorts and high heels, six-foot tall Maria Sharapova also posed for photos before joining the party that had music ranging from Michael Jackson to Snoop Dogg.

* * *
It's Official: Roddick and Sharapova Still Not Dating

Tennis star Andy Roddick plays love game
It was a love match in the making at the Don't Tell My Booker kickoff party at Mansion, thrown by Las Vegas clubs Jet and Light Wednesday night. Tennis golden boy Andy Roddick lived it up in the VIP section with fellow pro James Blake, but made a special trip back to Mansion's crowded entrance to pull in a special someone -- 8th and Ocean's ''breakout'' star, Sabrina. Once inside, the two were the epitome of a new crush, circling each other, whispering to their friends, and then eventually flirting. The ritual went on until Sabrina's booker-chaperon looked at her watch and escorted the starry-eyed model home. Roddick was seen flirting with models at the official NASDAQ-100 kickoff earlier that night. According to a spy, "Maria Sharapova came but was very much on the DL -- if she is seeing Andy, you couldn't tell.''

* * *
RIP: Bernard Lacoste

Although I'm still missing the signature Roddick-Reebok look, Lacoste signing on Andy to represent their clothes in America was probably one of their better business decisions.

From Lacoste's American Ambassador
"Andy is the total-look ambassador for Lacoste," mentioned Alex Fauvet, the Vice President of International Marketing who worked with Andy to create his new line of clothing. "This is a true partnership, not just a business transaction, and we are truly proud of that."

Andy's new gear was first worn by him in Indian Wells, but this look is crafted and designed to be worn to look stylish and comfortable both on and off the court. It all began the week before Andy signed with Lacoste that he was really intrigued by the whole designing process and wanted to be immediately and actively involved. From the color of the polo to the style of all his gear, Andy's acing another aspect of his career quite successfully.

"His line is flying off the shelves," noted the President of Lacoste-USA. Andy's line is most seen while he is in action, showing off the new striping down the sleeves and around the color in assorted colors. This shirt is made for versatility with the technical, dry-fit material for competing in as well as designed with the casual look to wear with a pair of jeans. Lacoste and Andy worked together to design shirts, a whole tennis outfit, and a track suit. The suit was giving a vintage look to be worn as a matching set for warming up on court, comfortably getting things done off-court, and especially worn as separates.

"This is the 'in' style between sport and sportswear casual," commented Alex. "The polo shirt and track jacket go well with jeans in casual, urban places." You can see this casual sportswear being worn by the ambassador himself during press conferences, interviews, and many other off-court appearances.


Noelle De Guzman said...

mmm, new clothes for Andy! :)

tangerine said...

It's dead in here. :(

Adam said...

Matt Cronin just doesn't quit, does he? I find it harder and harder to take his articles on Andy seriously with each one that comes out.

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