Sunday, November 12, 2006

TMC Shanghai: Lunch with the King

"They're saying I'm in the Group of Death, but I don't feel like dying next week. Hopefully, I can be one of the survivors."

Survivor of 2006.

Watch Roddick-Nalbandian highlights here.
Download Roddick-Federer highlights here.

Well, so much for getting my new blog update ready by Shanghai. I guess I'll have to wait until after TMC to unveil my new look.

RR3: Nalbandian def Roddick 6-2 7-6(4)
RR2: Federer def Roddick 4-6 7-6(10) 6-4
RR1: Roddick def Ljubicic 6-4 6-7(9) 6-1

Very big win for Andy in defeating Ivan Ljubicic, the Davis Cup/Indoor King (depending on which Croat fan you talk to), who has beaten Andy in their last two meetings. It's rumored that Ljubicic is still feeling a bit under the weather which may explain the breadstick he ate in the final set, but that's not to take away from Andy's excellent net play (60 net approaches!) and his simple gameplan of "Be aggressive. Then be aggressive some more." Unfortunately, Andy got too aggressive and got into a heated verbal exchange with the chair umpire in the second set, at one point calling him a liar. ("Either you're lying or you're really bad at your job," he told umpire Mohamed Lahyani.) Masters series TV commentators called Roddick's behavior "disgraceful." Connors-influenced? Not likely. Roddick's meltdowns and love of abusing the chair umpire are well documented but this hissy fit comes at an odd time when he was up a set on Ljubicic, and probably could have ended the match in two sets had he just let it go. Instead, he ended up losing concentration, Ljubicic wins the tiebreak, and now they're into a third set that shouldn't have happened in the first place. Really, Andy, do you need the practice? Some chair umpires deserve your ire but not this time. Getting fired up is one thing but not when it adversely affects your game. Put a lid on it, please.

MMMM. Ljubicic on a stick.

But the part where you accidentally sat in Ljubicic's chair? Classic. Stay that way, we love it. Also, the sharp red and black outfit? Devine.

So with Roddick's win over Ljubicic he moves up to No. 4 in the rankings, for now. This is also Roddick's first defeat of a top ten player in over a year.

Serve-and-volley play proves a winner for Roddick
Roddick blasted 19 aces, but it was his serve-and-volley tactics that proved to be the difference against Ljubicic.

"He is a little different player," the Croatian said of the change in Roddick's normal baseline game. The American ventured to the net 60 times, and it proved to be a winner.

"It's definitely something I wanted to try against Ivan," Roddick said. "I didn't want him to get comfortable trying to block the returns back in the court and get back in baseline rallies. I felt I took that aspect of his game away with the serve-and-volley play."

Ljubicic came to Shanghai after being bedridden for 17 days with an allergic reaction to medication. But until the third set, his recent inactivity didn’t appear to hamper his game.

He staved off two match points in the tiebreak, then won the last two points on backhand errors by Roddick to level the match at one set apiece.

"The end of the second set and beginning of the third was probably the only period of the match where I had some chances on his serve," Ljubicic said.

After that, it was all Roddick as the American raced to victory in his first match in China. He had qualified for last year's Masters Cup but pulled out with an injury.

JIMMY CONNORS AND JOHN RODDICK watched the Federer-Nalbandian match.

"I thought I served well and I thought I returned well," Roddick said. "I still think I can hit the ball a little bit better from the baseline, and I felt that's what kind of separated it in the third set. I started doing that a lot better."

Roddick also inadvertently missed a cue, sitting done at one point in Ljubicic's courtside chair instead of his own during a changeover. He quickly realized his error and moved in time.

"Ivan should have told me to get out of his chair. But I'd been sitting in that chair every day during practice," explained the winner. "It was just a habit to migrate towards it.

"I didn't notice until Ivan sat down next to me and then I figured I should probably go to my own chair. I don't think I've ever done that before."

After Ljubicic tied the third set 1-1, the Croat dueled Roddick through five deuces before the American held. That began a five-game run to the victory for Roddick.

Up next is Roger Federer (hence, my Lunch With The King title), which is scheduled for Tuesday, 7:00pm Shanghai time (which would be Tuesday, 6:00am EST for US residents. Go here to figure out world time zone differentials). This would mark the first time simce 2003 that Roddick has met with Federer in a match that was not a final. Impressive, really.

By the way, you can watch all of the TMC matches online for a mere $5.00. Unfortunately, this service is not available for the Mac/Apple platform which I didn't find out about until after I'd paid for the service. Thanks a lot, ATP, Den of Thieves.

Click here for ESPN2's TV schedule for TMC matches.

E-mail ESPN to compliment or complain about their TMC programming. I'm glad that they decided to show Roddick's match last night but editing out the two good parts (his tirade and the chair incident) is not how to broadcast a Roddick match. Show us the warts and all, I say. And no censorship, either. I love the F-bombs and loud self recriminations.

* * *
TMC match highlights video/audio

Watch Andy's tirade here. (Thanks to claire)

Download Roddick vs Ljubicic RR highlights here.
(Thanks to you-know-who-you-are friend)

Download Roddick's interview here. (Thanks to xander)

Download entire third set of Roddick-Ljubicic match here.
(Thanks to Four:Love)

Download Fed/Nalby and ARod/Ivan match recap here.
(Thanks to Four:Love)

AUDIO interviews can be found here.

* * *
- [Tennis-X] Andy's post-match interview (Roddick def Ljubicic)
- [Yahoo] Roddick doesn't fear Federer
- [Times Online] Evolving Roddick on course to end year with a flourish
- [New York Times] For Roddick and Blake, recovery and reward
- [Sportsnet] Net result: Roddick victorious

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