Monday, July 17, 2006

RCA: American Tennis Wins

Updated July 24, 2006


"It's the best I've ever played, then better. That's what I had to do against a champion like Andy."

—JAMES BLAKE, after defeating his friend
and rival Andy Roddick.



Final: Blake def Roddick 4-6 6-4 7-6(5)

BREAKING NEWS! Roddick announces that tennis legend JIMMY CONNORS will be his new coach.


"I've got a coach," Roddick announced as he posed with tennis legend Jimmy Connors during a press conference at the Countrywide Classic on July 24 2006 at the Los Angeles Tennis Center-UCLA in Westwood, California.



I'm still flying from the exhilarating RCA finals so forgive me if I've been remiss in updating this blog. I am still processing everything and trying to get my thoughts in order, so for now I'll just repost here what I've already said on MTF and over at Steve Tignor's blog:

Although I was sad that Roddick lost, I couldn't be too sad for very long because that was one of the most exciting, nail-biting, entertaining matches I've seen in a long while. High quality playing from both talented players throughout the entire match. There was a lot of variety to their shots, and they know each other well so you could see the wheels turning in their heads as they tried to bluff one another for two hours. So much for American tennis being dead! Blake and Roddick put that rumor to bed quickly.

Another theory that has now arrived DOA: that only Brad Gilbert can help Roddick get back into the top ten. Brad who? All hail the mighty Connors! Connors and Roddick have a press conference scheduled today in LA at 5:30, btw. Hope you'll be covering it, Steve.

And props to Roddick who had the tough task of shaking off a heart-breaking loss in time to recover for another match, the doubles final, which he and Bobby Reynolds won. So he didn't exactly leave empty handed. Reportedly, Roddick also gave his half of the doubles winnings to Reynolds. Just another example of the great sportsmanship that Roddick possesses.

With Agassi retiring soon, I am enjoying this new budding rivalry between Blake and Roddick: the fight for American tennis dominance. If the RCA final was any indication, it's going to be a great summer for American tennis. I Can't wait to see them burning up the hardcourts all summer long.

"For six months, I've been hearing I don't know how to play tennis. You don't get to number one, number two, number three without knowing how to play tennis."

— ANDY RODDICK. Putting his critics in their place.



Blake beats Roddick to win RCA title

James Blake was happy to win the RCA Championships and seemed to be just as pleased to see Andy Roddick back on track.

Roddick said he played one of his best finals, but Blake won the all-American matchup 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-5) on Sunday.

Blake replaced Roddick this month as the highest-ranked American man, and lived up to his new status. But he said Roddick is starting to look like the guy who once was No. 1 in the world.

"I feel like I've kind of earned the No. 5 ranking," Blake said. "but I know (Roddick) will be better than that. It's nice to see the old Andy. I look for him to be number one or two in this U.S. Open series."

Blake claimed his sixth career ATP win and third of the year.

"It's the best I've ever played, then better," he said. "That's what I had to do against Andy."

Roddick has 20 ATP career wins, but none this year. The subject of much criticism since a third-round exit at Wimbledon, he said he's starting to regain his confidence.

"For six months, I've been hearing I don't know how to play tennis," Roddick said. "You don't get to number one, number two, number three without knowing how to play tennis.

"I've been playing badly for a while ... My confidence has been restored."

The win capped a stunning turnaround for Blake. He was ranked No. 210 last April. In May 2004, Blake suffered a fractured vertebra in his neck when he slammed head first into a net post during a practice session. Later that summer, he learned he had shingles, a condition which affected his vision and caused temporary paralysis on one side of his face. In July 2004, his father, Thomas, died from stomach cancer.

Nothing stopped Blake on Sunday, not even Roddick's serve that often exceeded 140 miles per hour.

"He's just playing great tennis right now," Roddick said. "It couldn't happen to a better person."

Roddick finished with 17 aces, but was constantly frustrated by Blake's foot speed. In the tiebreaker, Blake chased down one of many balls that appeared unreachable to go up 6-4. Roddick served an ace to make it 6-5, but Blake closed it out on the next point.

"We want to prove that Americans are back on our surface," Blake said. "I feel like I'm on a new level on hard courts."

Roddick came into the match having won 40 consecutive service games. That increased to 45 before Blake broke him on a backhand return winner to take a 2-0 lead in the second set. It was the first time in the tournament, singles or doubles, that Roddick's serve had been broken.

Blake nearly broke Roddick's serve again for a 4-0 lead, but Roddick won the game.

Roddick eventually rallied to tie the set at 4, but Blake broke Roddick's serve for a second time, a love game that clinched the set. Roddick showed his frustration during the decisive game, throwing his racket up in the air after Blake went up 40-love.

Blake has a reputation for making difficult returns.

"You expect that," Roddick said. "It's frustrating, but it really wasn't getting me down. It's fun to play in a match that's that high-level. It was a really good week."

And Roddick didn't come away from tournament empty-handed.

He and Bobby Reynolds beat Paul Goldstein and Jim Thomas 6-4, 6-4 to win the doubles championship on Sunday.

"My confidence has been restored." — ANDY RODDICK.


What the Players Said

Blake: "This is one of the best finals I've ever played. I had to play like that to beat a champion like Andy. I played my best tennis; it's very satisfying to have done it in the final. Andy and I wanted to prove that U.S. tennis is back now. We're on our surface now and we want to do well going into the U.S. Open and hopefully for the rest of the year. I like the way that things are going."

Roddick: "This is the only final besides the 2004 Wimbledon final [l. to Federer] that I can say I've played my best tennis and lost. Sure I'm disappointed now, but I'm sure I will look back at this week as a success. Hopefully this is a turning point."

* * *
Consolation prize: Roddick wins his first title of 2006!

And it's a doubles title. LOL. Well, after his tremendous efforts this past week at least he didn't leave Indianapolis completely empty-handed. This is Roddick's third career doubles title and Bobby Reynolds' first.

It was reported that Andy gave teammate Reynolds his half of the doubles prize money. A magnanimous gesture, even if Andy is a millionaire and doesn't really need the extra couple thousand.

Related articles: Doubles final a single bonus for Roddick. and
Roddick bounces back to share doubles title.

"It's disappointing when you kind of give your heart and soul to U.S. tennis and playing Davis Cup, and the support leaves pretty quickly. I think people do forget that I am 23. There's a long way to go in my career. I'm not done by any means. The way I look at it, I'm just starting."

— ANDY RODDICK, on the criticism he has faced this year.


* * *
RCA championship final ratings up this year

James Blake's dramatic three-set victory over Andy Roddick on Sunday gave the RCA Championships' NBC television ratings a boost, the United States Tennis Association announced.

The rating for the final was a 1.2, a 50 percent increase over last year's 0.8 for the final.

Sunday's championship crowd of 6,781 was larger than last year's 6,380. However, the total attendance for the tournament was 70,186, the lowest since it became a hardcourt event in 1988. The previous low was last year's 72,099.

Tournament director Kevin Martin said he was pleased with the walk-up tickets sales for the semifinals and final.

Andy Roddick: Star will be out, but he's not saying where.

Andy Roddick, no stranger to the nightlife, said he has picked his spots this week in Indianapolis, though he's been coy about his whereabouts.

"You definitely try to experience the city a little bit," he said.

Roddick has spent time in a karaoke bar (no word on which song he sang, or whether he sang at all), the mall and some restaurants for dinner. Roddick hit Broad Ripple but hasn't visited Jermaine O'Neal's club, Seven.

Even if you spot him, you aren't likely to see him making a fool of himself, though.

"I'm not going to go out and get drunk in the middle of a tournament," Roddick said.

So, Andy, where exactly can we find you tonight?

"I won't tell you or everybody's going to be there," he said.

* * *
Random Thought of the Day: Clay 'tards

Let's give a big hand to those Spanish and South American players who are still playing on dirt over in Europe with the US Open (a major slam, in case they didn't realize) and a few AMS events coming up soon on the hardcourts. A round of "duh"s for these guys.

* * *
You can see all of the RCA match HIGHLIGHTS here in their archive.

HIGHLIGHTS of the final can be seen here.

HIGHLIGHTS of the doubles final can be seen here.

TORRENT of the Roddick/Blake final here.

TORRENT of the Roddick/Ginepri semifinal here.


News items:
- NY Times: Blake wins, but Roddick displays old form
- IndyStar.com: Roddick bounces back to share doubles title
READ!- IndyStar.com: RCA's gets singles final it deserves
- IndyStar.com: Roddick roars that he's back
- IndyStar.com: Turning the tables
- Steve Tignor, The Wrap: Indy, Rocking
NEW!- NY Sun: The death of American tennis has been greatly exaggerated
NEW!- Tennis-X: Roddick, ATP Offer Underrated Entertainment in Indy Doubles Final
NEW!- CBS Sports: If Jimbo serves up wisdom, Roddick will be all ears

COMMENT ON THIS POST
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Originally posted July 22, 2006

RCA: Battle of the Americans





"I played this match on my terms."

—ANDY RODDICK, after defeating
Robby Ginepri.



SF: Roddick def Ginepri 7-5 6-3

Rankings Watch

With his win over Robby Ginepri, Andy will be back in the Top Ten of the ATP rankings when they come out on Monday!

Bud Collins: "Are you believing in yourself?"
Andy Roddick: "Absolutely."

Roddick reaches first final of season at Indianapolis
Former world number one Andy Roddick reached his first final in 2006 with a 7-5 6-3 win over fellow American Robby Ginepri at the RCA Championships on Saturday.

Roddick, now ranked 11th, will be hoping to win his first trophy since Lyon last October when he faces either top-seeded compatriot James Blake or Belgian Xavier Malisse on Sunday.

Roddick needed just 66 minutes to claim his sixth win in seven ATP meetings against Ginepri, whom he first played at age 12 in the juniors.

Twice former champion Roddick dominated on serve, with Ginepri praising the effort as the best he's ever faced from his friend.

Roddick never faced a break point, fired eight aces and notched 21 winners against defending champion Ginepri.

"I played tight tennis with not a lot of sloppy errors," Roddick told reporters. "I tried to mix up my serve and give him things he wasn't expecting.

"This was the best tennis I've played all year. I played this match on my terms, I'm happy with the way things are going."

Roddick is aiming to become the first three-time Indianapolis champion since Pete Sampras.

Ginepri said later during his post-match interview: "He played a great match. He served the best I've seen him serve. I've played him plenty of times, and I've never seen him serve like that. His serve was definitely on today. I can tell he's been working on some different things. He attacked today, and has made adjustments to his game."

This is very encouraging. Watching the match today I saw bits of the old Andy Roddick: he finally flattened out his forehand again and he served like a monster. But even more intriguing was seeing a new Andy Roddick emerge. By that, I mean he was doing things he doesn't normally do well: taking the ball early, stalking the baseline, approaching the net correctly(!). Said one poster on a tennis messageboard: "His game is SO different when he's playing confident." Bingo. As I've said many times before, it's not the crummy backhand that's killing him in matches, or any of his other weaknesses. Most of Andy's problems was/is between the ears. If you don't believe, then you don't win. Simple as that.

I think if Andy can keep varying his serve, then he stands an excellent chance of beating Blake in the final.

Andy being interviewed by Jim Courier at the 2006 Australian Open.

* * *
Jim Courier is the Man

As an aside, has anybody else been enjoying Jim Courier's terrific commentating on NBC? I just love listening to this man. He always has something interesting to say about strategy, will occasionally discuss some tennis history, and he's always talking about how "handsome" so-and-so is. LOL. I learn more about tennis listening to him than any other American commentator. He also conducts some very funny oncourt interviews with the players.

And now that Brad Gilbert has jumped ship to coach Andy Murray over in the mother land, ESPN would be wise to try to entice Courier to work in their ESPN studio. However, Courier may have a special contract set up with NBC and may not be able to break it, I don't know.

* * *

"I'm most concerned about his serve."

—JAMES BLAKE. Anticipating Roddick's bombs.


Roddick vs Blake American Showdown

Preview of the championship final from the Indy website:
James Blake (USA) 1 vs. Andy Roddick (USA) 2

After a week of hard work here at the RCA Championships, fans will be rewarded with the final everyone was hoping for between top seed James Blake and second seed Andy Roddick. Truthfully, a tournament couldn't ask for anything more. Taking a look at 2006, a final between the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds has taken place seven times and the No. 2 seeds are 5-2 in this situation, a fact that surely will put a smile on Roddick's face.

The No. 1 and No. 2 seeds meeting in the Indy final is not a unique situation as it has happened on three other occasions since 1988 – Andy Roddick beat Paradorn Srichaphan in 2003, Pete Sampras beat Goran Ivanisevic in 1996 and Pete Sampras, beat Jim Courier in 1992.

In terms of All-American finals, this is the first one to take place on the ATP tour since Roddick and Blake met at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington, DC last August. In case you're wondering, Roddick had the edge in that match. In fact, Roddick's had the edge in six of their seven career meetings with Blake only winning their latest encounter in the London/Queen's Club semifinal last month. And here's a statistic bound to broaden the smile on Roddick's face – he's 5-2 when playing countrymen in ATP finals, while Blake is 0-3 in that category.

As they head into this final, the match marks the first time that the No. 6 ranked Blake has ranked higher than the No. 11 ranked Roddick during one of their meetings. Certainly, that could be a confidence boost for Blake, but the truth is that Blake tends to take a backseat to Roddick's leadership role amongst the American players so this could turn out to be no factor at all.

When taking a look at how their individual year is progressing, Blake definitely has the ball in his court. Blake has won two titles at Sydney and Las Vegas, and has reached the finals at the ATP Masters Series-Indian Wells and London/Queen's Club tournaments. So this amounts to his fifth final of the season, which is pretty impressive stuff.

Unfortunately for Roddick, the year has not been one that you can categorize as an ace. In fact, this is his first trip to a final all season long. But it seems that Roddick, a two-time RCA Championships champion in the past, is turning things around here this week. And one reason that could be is that he spent last week taking some tips from the legendary Jimmy Connors – if there's anyone in the game that can give someone a kick in the butt and teach you to remember that one must always ooze confidence, it's definitely JIMBO.

When analyzing both of these player's games, if both are playing at the top of their level, it's the Roddick supersonic serve that can tell the difference. While Blake is a terrifically solid player, it would be fair to say he lacks a major weapon the likes of Roddick's serve. Let's bear in mind that Roddick hasn't dropped his serve throughout the tournament, winning 40 service games in the singles and 18 in the doubles. That's pretty heady stuff, if you ask me.

These are two really good guys and one hates to have to make a pick between them for the title. But from all accounts, Roddick is back to being the guy who walks with a winning swagger. Blake will give it his best, but Roddick will take home his first title of the year.

P.S. And while you're at it, if you're the betting kind of person, why not place a bet on Roddick to win both the singles and doubles trophies today. Roddick is teaming with fellow American Bobby Reynolds against third seeds Paul Goldstein and Jim Thomas in the doubles final. Roddick performed the singles-doubles victory once before in his career at the Houston tournament in 2002. Why not pick Roddick for the double winner's payday, too?

Interesting Roddick factoid: Since Houston 2004, Roddick has not lost in a final to anyone other than Roger Federer.

So I've finally figured out that RCA is not really about winning the trophy: it's about winning the privilege to hold their mascot puppies! We really need to see Andy holding one of the RCA puppy-dogs. Awww. How cute.

* * *
TV schedule of RCA finals

I heard a rumor that the championship final may not be broadcast in some parts of the U.S. due to a baseball game. If that happens, don't fret! I will be taping the final and will have it available to download here on my blog. Unfortunately, I won't have access to the doubles final but hopefully someone who has The Tennis Channel will tape it for us. Click here for the U.S. TV schedule of the finals. The singles final begins at 2:00pm EST on NBC.

With apologies to our international audience, I do not have access to any TV schedules for Europe or South America.

* * *
HIGHLIGHTS of the Muller match here.

You can see all of the RCA match HIGHLIGHTS here in their archive.

Andy's post-match INTERVIEW with Bud Collins here.

I have no idea what this "See How They Live" promo thingy is, but it says "Coming Soon".

PS. Has anyone else noticed that RCA's video highlights are actually "lowlights"? They keep showing "highlights" of Andy losing a point and then in the next frame they show Roddick with a winning scoreline. LOL. Nice logic there, Mr. RCA video production guy dude.

COMMENT ON THIS POST
=======================================================
Originally posted July 22, 2006

RCA: Roddick Punishes Muller




"He broke my heart last year."

— ANDY RODDICK on Gilles Muller.


"They say American tennis is declining - I don't listen to them. We know how well we can play on these hardcourts."

— JAMES BLAKE. Putting the media in its place.


Singles
QF: Roddick def Muller 6-2 6-3

Doubles
SF: Roddick/Reynolds def. Hanley/Ullyet 6-3 6-4

* * *
Roddick into finals....of doubles
So Andy Roddick finally reaches his first final of the year: in doubles! LOL. Gee, what exactly did Jimmy Connors say to him? Wow. The adrenaline from the Muller beatdown must've still been pumping hard for him and Bobby to take out the top doubles seeds, a very good doubles team, in the form of Hanley/Ullyet. I'm impressed.


STAREDOWN. You're not going to beat me ever again.

One down, two to go
Roddick destroyed Muller 6-2 6-3. Hurray! I can keep my blog after all!

Roddick needed to avenge his USO loss badly and he did it in such a convincing manner. I have been waiting for this day to come for months. The loss to Muller at USO last year stuck in my craw worse than any other loss he's suffered since. It was by far his worst career loss. He has suffered some heartbreaking losses before (the 2004 Wimbledon final springs to mind) but this one was different; it hurt on so many levels: it was the slam that he'd won before, it was the loud NYC crowd that loves him to bits and was on his side throughout the whole match and yet it still wasn't enough to help Andy lift his game, it was the first round of his best slam, it was a night match, it was in straight set TBs to a notorious choker and headcase ranked 68 at the time, it was his birthday for crying out loud. Even John McEnroe, who was commentating, was like, "WTF?" Everybody was gobsmacked. Adding insult to injury: the American Express "Andy's Mojo" ad campaign that backfired and blew up in Andy's face. The mojo jokes are old and lame now, but they still pop up from various uncool persons and certainly won't be forgotten anytime soon.
What’s getting old?
People ragging on Andy Roddick. Someone send out a memo that the “mojo” joke is as old as it is tacky.

And, Muller's win angered me so because it was so obviously a fluke. Muller admitted himself that had no idea how he beat Andy that night and he couldn't even admit to himself that he had "tree'd" (a tennis term for playing out of your mind) that night. So what does this newly minted Giant Killer, the guy who ruined Roddick's birthday (and to many of us, the USO) do the next day? Completely craps out and loses to Robby Ginepri in the second round 1-1-and-4: Hey, wasn't that the scoreline Andy was supposed to deliver? ^%$#@ Gah!

You can see how much that loss really got to me. So I can say now that this win is rather cathartic for me. Exorcising the Muller demon was necessary. Destroying him was mandatory. Misson accomplished.

* * *
Up next: another newly minted Roddick-killa, Robby Ginepri
After Muller, there are two other smallish scores to settle: with his friends and rivals, Robby Ginepri and James Blake.

Robby beat Andy in quarterfinal of RCA last year and I remember the crowd's reaction being rather unhappy with that result. Roddick's demeanor that day was moody and distracted; he looked like he'd rather be anywhere else in the world except playing at RCA. He had three match points but a bad line call unhinged Andy and he spent the rest of the match arguing with the umpire. Ginepri, seizing the opportunity, kept his cool and tried not to get drawn into Andy's drama. It was all he needed to pull off the upset win.

RCA has always been a tough tournament for Andy mentally, because it comes right on the heels of Wimbledon. Roddick himself has said that he has a hard time getting jacked up to play RCA after playing in the Wimbledon final. Last year was especially tough because the Wimby final was a mail-in win for Federer; Roddick looked exhausted and could barely make a match of it, so I can imagine just how difficult it was for him to shake off the crummy Wimbledon experience and prepare to roll again at RCA. What he really needed was some boat therapy that week.

Providing that Andy gets past Ginepri today (who had also been slumping all year long until just this week), hopefully his other good friend James Blake will be waiting for him in the final. And hopefully too Andy will show up prepared to see James rip winners off his 135 mph serves like he did at Queen's. There's no time to be shocked and awed again, Andy. You should be expecting this. Keep the ball low and slow. Don't play into James's sweet spots, mmkay?

But one friend at a time. Robby first. Good luck, Andy!

Three Americans reach RCA semifinals
Three Americans are in the semifinals of the RCA Championships for the first time since 1992.

Top-seeded James Blake, second-seeded Andy Roddick and No. 4 Robby Ginepri all advanced with straight-set victories Friday. Ninth-seeded Xavier Malisse of Belgium, who will play Blake in one of Saturday's semifinals, also won his quarterfinal match in straight sets.

Blake, who is a career-high sixth in the ATP rankings, had the biggest challenge. He won two tiebreakers to get past 10th-seeded Nicolas Mahut, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (5).

Mahut, ranked No. 70, won the first two points of the second tiebreaker. Blake took the next two points and went on to win the match when his 31st winner hit the backcourt line.

"I can't think of any better ending than that one, anything could happen if I miss that," Blake said. "At 5-6, I knew he was going to go to my backhand, because my forehand return is better."

The last time three Americans were in the semifinals here it was Pete Sampras, Jim Courier and Todd Martin.

"That brings a big smile to my face. That's pretty good company to be in. ... They keep saying American tennis is down, but we had someone in the finals of every event of last year's U.S. Open Series and now we're on the way to doing it again."

Roddick needed 63 minutes to defeat 12th-seeded Gilles Muller 6-2, 6-3. Ginepri cruised past No. 8 Paradon Srichaphan 6-4, 6-1 as he tries to defend his tournament win from last year.

Roddick, the 2003 and 2004 champion here, had 19 winners and five unforced errors to avenge his upset loss to Muller in the first round of the U.S. Open last year.

"He broke my heart last year," Roddick said.

The former world No. 1 credited Jimmy Connors with helping him prepare for the tournament.

"I feel like I played some good stuff here this week," Roddick said. "Jimmy knows so much about the game. I'm appreciative that he would give me some of his time. It was really good of him."

Roddick, who had the fastest serve of the tournament so far at 145 mph, lost six points on his serve. Three of them came on the opening three points of his first service. Roddick then held by winning five consecutive points.

"With the exception of that first service game, I felt I was in every game. I didn't miss a lot of returns. I felt it was a pretty solid effort," he said.

The victory gave Roddick a 15-1 record at Indianapolis. His only loss here was to Ginepri in last year's quarterfinals.


* * *
Roddick takes a wild card into LA
So it looks like Roddick is making good on his promise to accept the WC into LA. Funny enough, he'll be the highest-seeded WC (at No. 1) because so many other players have pulled out. This will be Andy's first LA appearance since 2002.

For a small "mickey mouse"' tournament, the draw for LA is not very weak. Seeded players are Roddick, Hewitt, Gonzalez, Ginepri, Agassi, Haas, Hrbaty, and Tursunov. The "dangerous floaters" could be: Safin, Fish, Srichaphan, Malisse...and my new favorite young American, Sam Querrey. Well, okay, he's not a "dangerous floater" yet but at 6'6" I don't think anybody will be happy to see him on the other side of the net. Plus, the fact that he's new and nobody knows what kind of game he has (other than the Americans who have hit with him), he could unnerve a few players. But we'll see.

Andre Agassi is the defending champion.


* * *
The Love Affair Ends
My love affair with YouTube ended today. ESPN has finally gotten wise to YouTube so my account was suspended. *cry* My apologies to the dozens of people who were subscribed to my videos. I still have the original files so all is not lost. I would advise many of you who peruse YouTube to download your favorite videos NOW before other people's accounts are suddenly closed. Here are some tools you can use to help download and convert:

Video Downloader

Keep Vid

Lifehack.org: Convert flash video to .avi or .mpg


* * *
Polls! And leave a comment!
For those of you who enjoy voting in polls and leaving anonymous comments, US magazine has a Who's Sexier? poll going on right now between Roddick and Zack Braff. It's a close battle between Mandy Moore's men. I loved the first comment: "Andy Roddick is so cute even though I don't know who he is."

Here's another quiz where you can test your knowledge of everything Roddick. If you score less than 100% on it, send back your Roddick rubber ducky and turn in your Club Roddick badge.

* * *
Today's Random Thought
Isn't it just divine to have an entire month of tennis free from the dreadful and overhyped Federer-Nadal "rivalry"? Aaaahh!

COMMENT ON THIS POST
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Originally posted July 21, 2006

RCA: Roddick Makes a Quick Start



Singles
R16: Roddick def Morrison 7-6 7-5
R32: Roddick def Delgado 6-3 6-2

Doubles
R2: Roddick/Reynolds def Huss/Phillips
6-4 6-3
R1: Roddick/Reynolds def Coetzee/Hrbaty
6-4 6-4

Scroll down for links to video highlights of all of these matches.

Finally! A nice, easy, routine second round win. No dropped sets, no gut-wrenching tie-breaks, no struggling-to-hold-serve games, no freak-outs, just a good solid win. The way it should be. The way it used to be. And the doubles matches have been impressive too, not only because Andy doesn't play doubles often but he and his teammate Bobby Reynolds have never played before nor did they have much practice time together. Keep it up, boys.

Americans: Roddick Rolls
Roddick said last week's training has him well-prepared.

"I feel like I'm a lot more prepared physically and mentally to make a run at this," said Roddick, who lost in the third round at Wimbledon on July 1. "Sometimes I've been here, I feel I've had to get re-motivated after Wimbledon. This year I can't wait to get out there and play."

Roddick reached the Wimbledon semifinals in 2003 and the final in 2004 and 2005.

"But two of the times I've had tough first matches here, I've won (the title)," Roddick said. "But you want to play well whenever you can. (Tuesday) I felt I played a pretty solid match, pretty straightforward."

Roddick spent last week with tennis legend Jimmy Connors, who has been advising Roddick.

"Jimmy had some real good ideas, which I think I’ll keep to myself." Roddick said. "The workouts were fun. They were intense. I was a lot more prepared this time. I’m more physically and mentally ready for this than I have been in some time.

"I'm going to say the obvious here, but he really knows his stuff. It was a blast. I'm pretty humbled that his first venture into that sort of thing was with me."

"I feel really motivated, I can't wait to get out there and play," said Roddick, who faced just one break point. "I played solid throughout, I wasn't defensive at all. I accomplished a lot of things that I wanted to.

"You want to play well whenever you can, this was a good start to the week. This part of the season is huge for me."

Now where have we heard this song and dance before? I don't mean to be overly cynical, but how often has he talked big, started off with a bang, and then crumbled at the first tough hurdle he faces? It's hard to enjoy these wins because I'm just bracing myself for the inevitable letdown. I've been crushed before by the broken promises. I can't take it anymore!

OK, but every time I start to whine about Andy's slump, I see someone like Marat Safin or Robby Ginepri who are struggling worse and that keeps me in check. Just last night, Safin lost in straight sets to a qualifier named Wesley Whitehouse ranked 512. I mean, who? I asked around and found one person who saw him play live once and her vedict was that he's "fat, boring, and all-around meh." And yet someone as talented as Safin could only manage to win five games. Safin—the guy who knocked off Federer in a five-set classic and went on to win the Australian Open in 2005—is ranked 97 right now. So yeah, Andy's slump could be a lot worse.

Now that I think about it, I think the worst and lowest ranked player that Andy has lost to recently is Julien Benneteau (ranked 122 at Memphis, TN this past February). Other than that, most of the guys Andy has lost to have their fair share of talent to consider: Andreev, Murray, Baghdatis, Monfils, etc. Not many slouches. Still, losing sucks.


CONNORS' ADVICE TO RODDICK. "Don't dive on the hardcourts and do the splits."

Roddick tested by Morrison
Andy Roddick had to work to get past journeyman Jeff Morrison 7-6 (7/4), 7-5 here, losing the battle of aces but still advancing into the quarter-finals of the ATP Indianapolis Open.

Second seed Roddick, the 2003 and 2004 champion, managed only nine untouchable serves to a dozen for the No. 183 Morrison.

Apart from the final result, the evening was an exercise in frustration for Roddick, who won the last of his 20 career titles nine months ago and is still searching for a first final in 2006.

"I felt I played well all night, but on every window of opportunity I had, he came up with a huge serve or a great volley," said the 11th-ranked former US Open champion.

"I played some of my best stuff this year, but I barely got the win. I was fortunate.

"I feel great, but I want to start stringing three, four and five matches together, getting deep into tournaments," he said.

Top Seeds Pushed in Wins
Jeff Morrison had Andy Roddick wondering what he had to do to catch a break Thursday night at the RCA Championships.

"Every time I had a window of opportunity or him against the wall, he came up with a great volley off the top of the net or huge serves," Roddick said. "Credit to him, because that's some of the best tennis I've played all year."

Roddick, the No. 2 seed, finally shook off his fellow American 7-6 (7-4), 7-5 in the third round before an evening crowd of 5,065 at the Indianapolis Tennis Center.

Roddick broke Morrison's serve to take a 6-5 lead in the second set, then held serve at love to win. Roddick, who never faced a break point, fired nine aces and had a tournament fast serve of 143 mph.

Roddick said he is excited about today's quarterfinal meeting with No. 12 seed Gilles Muller, who beat Roddick in three tiebreaker sets in the 2005 U.S. Open's first round.

At the Open, Roddick said, Muller played well and he didn't.

Like Roddick, top seed James Blake had a struggle against qualifier Wesley Whitehouse, rallying for a 6-7 (7-5), 6-3, 6-4 triumph. Blake is ranked No. 6 on the ATP Tour. Whitehouse is No. 512.

Blake will meet No. 10 seed Nicolas Mahut, who eliminated No. 5 seed Tommy Haas 6-4, 7-5.

The other quarterfinals pit defending champion and No. 4 seed Robby Ginepri vs. No. 8 Paradorn Srichaphan, and No. 3 Fernando Gonzalez vs. No. 9 Xavier Malisse.

Andy plays Gilles Muller in the quarterfinal today. Remember my promise to this blog, Andy—no crapping out this time!

* * *
Everyone wins with replay, Roddick says
Hawkeye has a fan.

And not just any fan. Andy Roddick, who openly wished for an instant replay system last year after receiving what he thought was a bad call in his RCA Championships quarterfinal loss to Robby Ginepri, gives the new system a thumbs up.

Indianapolis is the second ATP Tour event to use the Hawk-Eye electronic line calling system. It will be used in the remaining U.S. Open Series events and the U.S. Open. Roddick would like it to be used everywhere.

"First of all, it takes some heat off the officials," Roddick said. "I think you see a lot less arguing. It's up to us whether we truly believe if it's in or out. The fans want to see you challenge right or wrong. On TV, I think it adds a certain sense of drama.

"It's probably more fun to show someone going nuts and winning a challenge."

One drawback at the RCA Championships: The system is used only on the Stadium Court. Players on outside courts must argue line calls the old-fashioned way.

I love Hawkeye too but I don't like the challenge system. Why should the players be burdened with having to worry about how many challenges they've used up? They have enough to worry about without having to debate with themselves, "I think that ball was out but wait a minute I only have one challenge left to use and it's on break point and if I lose the challenge then I'm screwed..."

Also, the chair umpire should not be waiting for a player to make a challenge if he thinks a bad call has been made. I've noticed a few chair umps doing this: putting the burden on the player instead of the chair ump doing his job and making the overrule. Charles Bricker noticed this too, at Nasdaq-100 earlier this year:

C'mon! Make The Overule
It's 1:25 in the afternoon Thursday and I'm sitting there with colleague Harvey Fialkov, wondering why Amelie Mauresmo can't hit a ball past the service line when Svetlana Kuznetsova sends a forehand crosscourt two to three inches beyond the baseline. I don't want to say this ball was as far out as the infamous Jennifer Capriati shot against Serena Williams, but it's far enough out that the turkey buzzards circling the stadium can clearly see it.

In the chair, umpire Roland Herfel is a sphinx. Nothing. He's just sitting there as Mauresmo looks up at him, incredulously, pointing with her finger to indicate it's long. Why isn't there an overrule on this call? The answer is that the chair umpires throughout this tournament are choking on their tongues. They're not overruling because they figure, what the heck, let the players deal with it. They've got a couple of challenges.

This is becoming a problem and I hope both tours deal with it after the tournament, because if they take the attitude that there's no need for overrules anymore unless both players have run out of challenges, then why do we need anyone sitting in the high chair. We might as well have someone up in the booth announcing the score. We keep hearing that we don't want to completely take the human element out of the game. I agree with that, but reducing the chair umpire to someone who calls the score and announces, "New balls, please," is hurting the game.

* * *
This is classic Roddick right here. LOL:

Roddick's last word
Roddick thanked the crowd for its support after he beat Ramon Delgado in the night session.

"Except for that one guy up there, the rest of you are OK," he said, pointing with his racket toward the stands.

One fan in the South stands kept yelling, "Go, Delgado."

Roddick was asked by the court announcer if he had anything to say to that fan. Roddick delighted the crowd by saying, "Nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah."


* * *
Roddick Writes
No wonder Andy hasn't updated his blog, he's been writing for Deuce magazine:

Greatest Road Trip in Sports
US Open Series
by Andy Roddick, American Superstar

If I could change one thing about the US Open Series, I'd start the thing a year earlier than they did! How bad is my luck to go out and have this great summer before the USTA offers to double the prize money of the US Open Series winner?!

It was pretty incredible in 2003. Having won a title on clay in Austria and then on the grass at Queen's Club before reaching the Wimbledon semifinals, I felt really confident coming into the summer tournament.

Having played so well going in made me think it would be a good summer, but I don't think I ever dreamed of winning as much as I did.

I had a tough match to start in Indianapolis, but then felt really good getting through to win there. From there it was on to Washington, D.C., where I played well but lost to Tim Henman in the semis.

After that came probably the best continuous stretch of tennis I've ever played. Montreal and Cincinnati were my first two Masters Series wins, and to do it in back-to-back weeks was incredible.

I felt a lot of expectations going into the US Open, but also had a ton of confidence. The Open was amazing, and very emotional. It all really came out of me after I beat Juan Carlos Ferrero in the finals. It seemed incredible at the time, and it seems even more special as time goes on.

I think it would be very hard to repeat that summer.

Over the course of those 49 days, I played 27 matches. Looking back on it, I think it's insane, but part of what kept me going was feeling so good about the way I was playing.

I think that the hardest part of trying to win the US Open Series is dealing with the weather. It's insanely hot and humid for that whole stretch. It's perfect weather for going to a water park, but let me tell you, it's not great for a lot of guys to be playing tennis! But I actually love that weather, and that's why I work so hard on conditioning.

The other thing that's tricky is that you know going into almost every day there will be, at some point, a huge thunderstorm. All of those cities get them. You hope it doesn't screw up your preparation, or stop your momentum in a match, but there's not a whole lot you can really do about it.

I know it's unlikely to ever be repeated, but I can think of 2.2 million reasons why I'll be trying hard to repeat that great year this summer!

Deuce magazine was supposed to go quarterly last year but for some reason it didn't happen. For those of you who paid for a subscription to this cool magazine, I had e-mailed them to inquire about their publishing schedule and it appears that they are back to being an annual publication. Which is too bad because I really love the format and variety of articles, and would've liked to read more than one issue a year.

* * *
Random Rant
You know what else is annoying about Andy no longer being in the Top Ten? I can no longer just go to the ATP website and click on his name on the ATP's Indesit Rankings sheet on their home page to get to Andy's profile; I now have to find the teeny-tiny search box, type his name in, wait, and then click on another link to get to his profile page. Andy being out of the Top Ten is such an inconvenience.


* * *
Videos!

HIGHLIGHTS from the Morrison match are here.

HIGHLIGHTS from the Delgado match are here.

HIGHLIGHTS from the Coetzee/Hrbaty doubles match are here.

Very funny HIGHLIGHTS of the Huss/Phillips doubles match over here.

The ATP has some new weird player videos entitled "Experience the Passion", here's Andy's vignette.

Here's a video clip I found that compares Andy's backhand with Andre Agassi's. Note that they used the 2002 version of Roddick to compare. His backhand has improved since then.

COMMENT ON THIS POST
=======================================================
Originally posted July 17, 2006

US Open Series Begins: Will the Sleeping Giant Finally Awaken?




"Whatever it is, it's between the ears . . . I'm not in the panic mode."

-- ANDY RODDICK, refusing to panic while
all hell breaks loose around him.



US Open Series: Indy Preview

The US Open Series begins with the RCA Championships in Indy this week and after looking over the draw (Andy is seeded No. 2, after James Blake) if Andy doesn't at least get to the finals here then he has serious issues. I see two, maybe three, names that—on paper—might give a slumping Roddick some problems: Robby Ginepri, Paradorn Srichaphan and, I can't believe I'm saying this, Gilles Muller. I include Muller only because he inexplicably knocked Andy out in the first round at USO last year. I say "inexplicably" because even Muller himself didn't know how he beat Andy, and admitted as much in the post-match interview. Andy will also be playing doubles with Bobby Reynolds.

Random emotional outburst: So help me, if Andy loses to Muller again, I quit this blog.

Back to reason: I'll quit for a day or so and then come back for more emotional turmoil and stomach acid abuse because, like a good Brokeback lover, I just can't quit him.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

In contrast, the new American No. 1 James Blake faces a much tougher draw with names like Safin, Haas, Gonzalez, Spadea, Philippoussis, and Tursunov floating around. The newest American hope, six-foot-six Sam Querrey, took a WC entry and could meet Blake in the semifinals if he makes it that far. Querrey is my new "future of American tennis" pet project. Querrey served as a hitting partner for the U.S. Davis Cup team and in fact, it was Roddick who encouraged Querrey to go pro.

Steve Tignor previews Indy:
Who will have more success, Andy Roddick or James Blake?
Just as Blake has turned himself into a consistent force, Roddick’s stature in the sport has at least temporarily been lowered. Blake is now ranked No. 6, while Roddick, at No 11, has fallen out of the Top 10 for the first time in three years. They’re both scheduled to kick off the hard-court season next week in Indy, where Roddick has won twice. I feel like Andy reached a low in his loss to Murray, a match where his weaknesses were exposed, and that he has few expectations for himself at the moment. This may help him go out and play more instinctively during his favorite part of the year (I have no reason for saying this; wishful thinking, I guess.). Blake will also be in his element through the summer; he could easily win two Open Series events, and will challenge at the Masters. But at the biggest tournaments, there’s still some question of the depth of his desire. As my friend Jon Levey says, Blake may have too much perspective at this point in his life to have the killer instinct that you need to make it all the way through a Slam. There are certainly worse problems to have.

Another U.S. player of note will be in Indy, as a couple commenters mentioned: Californian Sam Querrey, who took a wildcard into the event. Querrey, 18 and 6-foot-6, has made tremendous strides in the last two years. He decided to turn pro rather than go to USC this fall. The decision was apparently helped by a push from Roddick, who told him he had the game for the pros. He’s got a huge serve and a smooth, compact forehand for such a big guy, though I really don’t know if he’s Top 10 material (anyone else have an opinion?). He lost to Murray today in Newport 5 and 2, but if you’re wondering about the future of U.S. tennis in the wake of the Wimbledon debacle, he’s at least someone we can take a look at over the summer.

Tennis.com also previews Week 1 of the RCA Championships:
RCA Championships, the first stop in the 2006 U.S. Open Series. Despite having only a 48-man draw, the event will feature some great players and intriguing storylines.

James Blake is the top-ranked American (which means Andy Roddick is not) and, as the “big man on campus,” the field will be gunning for him. His role as the underdog is now over and how he handles this new-found pressure will be the key to his success this summer.

Roddick was the Indianapolis champ in 2003 and ’04, and for the first time in recent memory is outside of the Top 10 looking in. The pressure is on A-Rod to prove that his mediocre play over the past year has been a fluke. Will he still be a feared name in the draw?

Defending champion Robby Ginepri is another American who needs to step up his game. Ginepri has had a sub-par year but since he hasn’t had any serious points to defend he hasn’t dropped in the rankings. He does, however, have a good deal to defend this summer, so the days of his cushy ranking are over and he’ll have to produce great results. Otherwise it’ll be a freefall from his spot at No. 17 in the rankings.

Some of the international players that could make some noise in Indy are hard-hitting Fernando Gonzalez and Dmitry Tursunov, the Energizer Bunny Dominik Hrbaty, Andy Murray, and Wild Card (literally and figuratively) Marat Safin. With about a half-dozen other Americans adding some local flavor, the RCA Championships should be a compelling way to start the Open Series.

Here's a good pre-tournament article from Indystar.com that discusses Roddick's recent struggles and includes some good quotes from Andy himself.

Slumping Roddick returns to Indy
One year ago, Andy Roddick's biggest problem was finding a way to beat Roger Federer.

Now he has a whole lot of other guys to be concerned about.

The former No. 1 player in the world is mired in a yearlong slump and last week dropped out of the top 10 on the ATP Tour rankings. Now No. 11, he enters the RCA Championships in Indianapolis this week with a 26-12 record this year. The one-time U.S. Open champion has yet to win a title or even reach a final in 2006.

Yet he believes his game is not far off.

"Whatever it is, is between the ears," Roddick, who turns 24 on Aug. 30, said Friday in a telephone interview from California. "I might just need one good week to turn the ship. Or maybe back-to-back consistent matches. I'm not in the panic mode."

Roddick, seeded second to James Blake here, said perhaps the turnaround comes this week. After all, he's a two-time RCA champion (2003-04).

"I hate to use the word 'comeback' because that's overused," Roddick said. "But the summer gives me a chance to put some points on the board. It's kind of a fun position. No one is expecting anything. I'm excited to get out there again."

Roddick is certainly feeling a whole lot better about his game than he did after losing to Andy Murray in three straight sets in the third round at Wimbledon on July 1. Roddick was the Wimbledon runner-up to Federer in 2004 and '05.

"Obviously, it's really disappointing to lose in the third round," Roddick said. "But I do feel refreshed."

Roddick, who will arrive in Indianapolis today, has been in California this past week practicing with his brother, John Roddick, and former tennis great Jimmy Connors.

John Roddick has been serving as a practice partner and adviser since Roddick parted ways with coach Dean Goldfine earlier this year. Roddick had worked with Goldfine since December 2004. Previously, Brad Gilbert served as his coach for 1 1/2 years.

Roddick said when he began to think about possible coaches, Connors was on his short list.

"Jimmy has always been supportive of me publicly, which means a lot coming from someone of his magnitude," Roddick said. "I'm not sure how much he wants to travel. We're feeling out the situation."

NBC tennis reporter Bud Collins said changing coaches so frequently may have contributed to Roddick's struggles.

"He seems confused. He's like the kid whose parents keep moving and he keeps changing schools," Collins said.

Yet Roddick said too much has been made of the coaching changes, and it has been misconstrued that he planned to make his brother his coach on anything other than a temporary basis.

"John is just helping me out while I look," Roddick said. "He gives me someone to hit with and a sounding board."

Patrick McEnroe, a Davis Cup captain and TV analyst, predicted Roddick will have a great summer.

"The pressure is off a bit since his ranking dropped and James Blake has been able to solidify his game and move into the top 10," McEnroe said. "Andy has had a lot to deal with being the lone young American that has been a factor in the major tournaments."

McEnroe said he expects Roddick will regain his swagger in a summer hardcourt season where Roddick has traditionally excelled.

"He's had a tough year and he'd be the first to admit it," McEnroe said. "Sure, he has to work on some things, return of serve, coming to the net and hitting the backhand better, but his biggest problem has probably been (mental)."

While McEnroe said a good summer can put Roddick back among the top five on the tour, Collins believes it will be more difficult.

"He has a long way to go; a lot of guys have gone past him," Collins said. "He's still got fight and got pride. But he seems to be confused on how he's supposed to play. He didn't volley well (at Wimbledon)."

For Roddick, the biggest disappointment has not been that he hasn't won a title since Lyon, France, last October.

"I'm most concerned about not playing deeper in the majors," said Roddick, who lost in the first round at the U.S. Open in 2005.

He understands he is a bit of victim of his own success. In 2003, at age 21 and 2 months, Roddick became the youngest American to finish No. 1 in the ATP Tour rankings. He won his only Grand Slam title at the U.S. Open that year.

So while he gets a bit testy with the questions about his struggles, he said it comes with the territory.

"I have to take all the concern about my game (from the media) as a back-handed compliment," he said. "For a while, I've been the face of American tennis so I've developed a thick skin. The media buildup has helped me financially so I have to accept you're going to go through bad spells."

Well, we expected Roddick to find his game again at Wimbledon too and look how that turned out. Now is the time for Andy to stop with the dazed and confused playing out there and find his form again. Good luck, Andy!

* * *
Strange but true

Filed under the "I can't believe it's true" category: Andy's old coach Brad Gilbert will now officially coach Andy Murray of Scotland, under an agreement with the LTA. This is sad news for me because I actually enjoyed Gilbert's player analysis—replete with hilariously bizarre Gilbert-isms—on ESPN. Here's hoping the new coaching relationship goes sour quickly so that Gilbert can return to his rightful place next to an incredulous Chris Fowler in the ESPN studio.

Note to ESPN execs: Please. For the love of God, do not rehire MaliVai Washington.

* * *
More video clips to entertain you

Both new US Open Series ads can be viewed on the official US Open Series website.

Someone put up this funny video of Andy doing impersonations of Andre Agassi, John McEnroe, and Maria Sharapova.

* * *
Other News items:

- Charles Bricker, Florida Sun-Sentinel: Pressure rising on Americans as Open Series begins
- Washington Post: For Roddick, it's good to be home
- USA Today: Surface tension: players say bounces are higher, pace slower on U.S. Open hardcourts
- Tennis Week: Former top junior players: where are they now?

8 comments:

Joana said...

So true!!!
And your comment about quitting this blog - omg, i can't leave without your bog tan, it makes me feel better each time i read it (though it's heartbreaking sometimes). But like you said "I just can't quit him".
But sometimes the way I think about it, if we are that dissappointed and angry and depressed about Andy's game, I think Andy himself is way more disappointed, angry and depressed than we are. But hey, we're always 'wrong' right?? So yeah, hope we'll get to see the old-confident Andy soon.

Keep up the good work, tan........

morgan j said...

lol lol i wish i could quit andy, but none of us can. i just want him back in the top 10 and doing well. has there been anymore news on the girlfriend issue?

MJxoxoxox

Mathew said...

Andy is currently crushing Muller 6-2, 5-3, up a break in the second (big sigh of relief). Has the sleeping giant awaken indeed? A win over Muller, Ginepri, and Blake for the championship would exact some revenge and be a great start to the hard court season.

Mathew said...

Roddick/Reynold's just pounded the #4 doubles team in the world, 6-3, 6-4. Awesome!

Bluecat said...

I can't open those links@@

Haha said...

tangerine,
thanks for letting us know about how to rip off those videos off you-tube...
and love your blog.....

Renee said...

Today's Random Thought
Isn't it just divine to have an entire month of tennis free from the dreadful and overhyped Federer-Nadal "rivalry"? Aaaahh!


Aye, aye!!! =D And I don't want this month to be over any time soon...

Anonymous said...

Thats so true abt d RCA highlights.Seems like they plan to give d loser all d credit.Would be interestin to see if d same happens in d finals highlights.

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