Thursday, January 18, 2007

Australian Open: Praise You

Updated January 27, 2007

SF: Federer def Roddick
6-4 6-0 6-2

Andy Roddick is like a Timex watch: He takes a licking but keeps on ticking

Gee, what happened to the guy who played such superb and intelligent tennis to knock out the likes of Safin, Ancic, and Fish? The "blockbuster" semifinal that wasn't, this match would've lived up to its hype had the "new" Andy Roddick bothered to show up to play, but he didn't. You could see it and feel it in the first set. Federer just knocked the wind right out of his sails. All of that confidence that everybody had worked so hard to rebuild was blown away in almost an instant. Probably most worrisome of all was the fact that Roddick mentally checked out of the match after the first set, and the second set demolition shows it. It just goes to show that when a player mentally craps out during a match, the rest of his game and all the improvements he's made to it, goes right out the window with it.

I think perhaps the close calls at Shanghai and USO concerned Federer and caused him to really up his game and be ready for the onslaught he was expecting from Roddick. It didn't help that the media had all jumped on the Roddick bandwagon just days before the semifinal and are now just as quick to jump off, taking their pound of flesh with them (see video for proof). But, Roger didn't just bring his "A" game he brought his "AAA" game, of which nobody had seen before. I didn't think it physically possible for someone as talented as Roger to "tree" but he did exactly that. I've never seen him play out of his mind like that before, not even at Wimbledon. No superlatives does it justice. Poor humanoid Roddick was left to deal with an alien from Planet Roger. Nobody could have predicted such a result, not even Roger himself, whose own outstanding performance left himself speechless. "I had one of these days when everything worked, I was unbeatable," Federer said. "It's just unreal. I am shocked myself, I dont know what to say."

I'm just glad that Jimmy Connors will be around to pick up the pieces. He will know what to say and do to help Andy recover. I do not think this will send Andy into another downward spiral because even though this was a brutal loss he had played brilliantly to get to the semis, beating some very good players. He should be proud of those performances. I don't know if it would make him feel any better to know that nobody would've beaten Federer on that day. Maybe Roddick can take heart, believing that Federer was so threatened by this "new" Roddick that he felt the need to pull out all the stops in order to crush him. Would Federer have played out of his mind like that if he were facing Mardy Fish instead? Not likely. Small consolation to Team Roddick, but the next time he should face Federer my own small piece of advice would be: play possum!

And as usual, Roddick gave a brilliant post-match interview that shows his rage, honesty, sarcasm, humiliation, and humor, all rolled in one. It takes balls to face the music like that. The press gave Andy a standing ovation afterwards.

Tennis Australia Hates Tennis. DOWNLOAD the .avi file of Roddick's SF postmatch interview here and here.

Andy Roddick post-match interview
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Have you ever played anybody so hot like that before?
ANDY RODDICK: I don't know. He played well. You know, I made more errors than I should have in the first. After that, there's no doubt he was coming up with some shots tonight.

Q. What was it like for you just being there at the end of that?
ANDY RODDICK: It was frustrating. You know, it was miserable. It sucked. It was terrible. Besides that, it was fine.

Q. What did Jimmy say to you straight after the game?
ANDY RODDICK: He gave me a beer.

Q. You seem really disappointed. Did you think you had a real crack tonight, a chance?
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, I was playing well coming in. There's no reason to think ‑‑ if you would have told me this beforehand, I probably ‑‑ I didn't foresee it.

Q. Is that the best you've seen him play for a while?
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah. I mean, he played really well tonight. I mean, that's for sure.

Q. Can you just take us from 4‑All on. Up to 4‑4, you're in the match. Then you got broken.
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, I got broken. Then I got broken three more times. Then I got broken two more times in the third set. Then it was over 26 minutes later. Is that what you saw, too?

Q. I saw that. On court, what changed from 4‑All till the end?
ANDY RODDICK: That first game, probably the second was pretty crucial. I said it before. I mean, when he gets a lead, you know, he's a great front‑runner, there's no doubt about it. He kind of ran it out at the Open, too. Once he gets his lead, just gets that much more confidence, I mean, it's tough coming back. There aren't a lot of instances where people have forged a comeback on him.

Q. How do you go forward from here? How do you counter a game like that?
ANDY RODDICK: Well, you know, I just got to keep doing what I do. I wake up every morning. I put in as much as I can every day. I mean, I don't know if you'll find someone who questions that. You do your best not to get discouraged. You try to take it like a man. I caught an absolute beating tonight. There's no doubt about it. There's no two ways about it. You deal with it and you go back to the drawing board. You act like a professional, and you try to keep working hard.

Q. How do you rate Haas or González' chances against him?

Q. Is he getting better? Is he getting progressively better?
ANDY RODDICK: I don't know. I mean, better than what? You've been around the last three years, haven't you?

Q. Yes.
ANDY RODDICK: So it's been about the same.

Q. You said this week that you thought the gap between you and Roger was closing, or at least wasn't getting any wider.
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, not tonight.

Q. The next time you feel that, will you keep it to yourself?
ANDY RODDICK: No. Have I ever not answered a question honestly? That's honestly the way I felt. I'm not going to keep it to myself. You ask me a question, I'm going to give you an honest answer. What do you want me to say? Do you want me to come in here and kick my ass on a daily basis? It's not going to happen. I'm going to try to keep fighting. I'm going to try to keep working. That's what I could on a daily basis. I wake up and work my butt off on a daily basis. I'm going to continue to do that. I'm going to try to take this like a man as much as I can. He outplayed me. He played a lot better than I did tonight. He deserves all the praise that he gets, not only for how he plays, but how he handles himself. Get up tomorrow, look forward.

Q. Beating Safin and Ancic, was this a good tournament?
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, I thought it was a good tournament. But I've proven to myself that I can get to the semifinals of Grand Slams. I'd love more than anything to get past that, to get over that hurdle for sure.

Q. Obviously he played great. Did you feel like you needed to play much better?
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, I think I left a lot out there on the table tonight. I don't feel like I played like I have for the rest of the tournament. You know, I've come in here at times and said I played pretty well. You know, he just beat me. I think it was a combination tonight.

Q. Did you think about trying to slow things down there in the second set when he started to get a run?

Q. How much would you have paid in order not to come too this press conference tonight?
ANDY RODDICK: That's about the best question that's been asked. Well, I mean, I can't really say an amount because I would have gotten fined, what, 20 grand. Obviously, it would have to be less than that, right, if we're thinking logically? It really wouldn't be about the money; it would be about running away and not facing it. I would pay a lot of money if everyone would just make up stuff that I said and pretend like I was actually here. That would be fine. My dad didn't raise me to run away from it, so here I am.

Q. What next? Davis Cup preparation?

Q. What does that involve? A bit of experience on clay?
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, yeah. I'm not sure the exact schedule, but I'll probably maybe try to get down to Florida sometime next week and start preparing. I think the team, we all leave on Saturday of next week.

Q. What did Jimmy say? US Open final experience, you played him tough, got on a roll. Did you talk about that before the match, if Roger gets on a roll, try to do X, Y or Z, slow it down?
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, there's a lot of strategy talk. It's not so much like, If you're down 6‑4, 6‑0, 2‑0. We didn't really talk about that. Oops.

Q. Will you try to maybe totally forget about this result and just put it aside?
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, it would probably be a lot easier when I'm on that plane flight tomorrow not reading about it. Yeah, I don't know. I don't know how much you forget it or how much you remember it. I don't know what's better in this situation, to be honest. But it's there. It happened. You deal with it. You try your best to move forward. I mean, you can't ‑‑ I'm not going to sit here and try to be in denial about it. You know, so I'm just still trying to figure out the best way to move forward.

Q. Do you then study it and learn from it, force yourself to work out what to do next?
ANDY RODDICK: Well, one would think so, yeah. Yeah, you'd think so (smiling).

Q. Some people don't read the papers when they lose the next day. Will you read it, or you prefer not?
ANDY RODDICK: Probably not. Probably not. But it's kind of tough, though. I read the sports section every day of my life. I'm going to kind of have to like maneuver my way around it somehow (smiling). Like get an oversized coffee mug, kind of like smoke and mirrors or something.

Q. How would you write it if you had to write it?

Q. That match.
ANDY RODDICK: How would I rate it?

Q. Write it.
ANDY RODDICK: That was a 10. What a great question.

Q. How would you write it? I was talking fast.
ANDY RODDICK: I was thinking slow. How would I write it? How could you write a match? How would I write an article?

Q. Yes.
ANDY RODDICK: Probably something similar to what you guys are going to do, I'm sure.

Q. Sort of two steps forward, one step back, but you're moving in the right direction?
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, that's probably a good way to write it or rate it (laughter). That's probably what I would write.

Q. Your performance here is better than on court.
ANDY RODDICK: My performance here is better than on court?

Q. Right.
ANDY RODDICK: No shit (laughter). If there were rankings for press conferences, I wouldn't have to worry about dropping out of the top five, I hope.

Q. How do you see the Haas/González game going? What do you make of Fernando's performance at this tournament?
ANDY RODDICK: He's played great. There's no doubt about it. He's played consistently great, which is something maybe that hasn't been easy for him in the past. He's been real impressive. No, he's playing great, so we'll see.

Q. Do you rate him perhaps as a chance against Roger under the circumstances?
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah. I mean, I think Roger's the overwhelming favorite, though.

Q. After a night like this, do you sleep well?
ANDY RODDICK: Do I sleep well?

Q. Yes.
ANDY RODDICK: It depends on how much I drink tonight.

Q. Where are you going after this?
ANDY RODDICK: No idea actually.


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Originally posted January 25, 2007

Do You Believe, Andy Roddick?

QF: Roddick def Fish
6-2 6-2 6-2

The quarterfinal match was indeed as bad as the scoreline would indicate. In the words of one tennis fan: that was a cringe-worthy performance from Fish, and Roddick's reaction to his win was appropriately subdued; nobody wants to see their friend struggle as badly like that but it wasn't up to Roddick to throw Mardy a bone.


This match certainly was not what we Roddick-slash-Fish fans had hoped for, but with Federer waiting in the semifinal, I will take the solid win with minimal effort. Roddick had 25 winners and 4 unforced errors (2 of them df's) which is about as clean and solid as it gets. Fish had 28 winners and 26 ue's. Fish never got out of the starting gate in this match. He seemed flustered by Roddick's new aggressive game and didn't seem to have an answer for anything Andy threw at him. Fish wasn't able to get to the net to finish off points quickly, as is his usual tactic. Fish's own big serve failed him in this match, serving under 45%. To add insult to injury, a photographer had snapped a picture of Mardy reading his match notes.

Watching Mardy self-destruct was reminiscient of Taylor Dent's similarly embarrassing beatdown at the 2004 AO, also at the hands of Roddick. I wondered if it was because of Roddick that they hit the self-destruct button (unlikely) or because of the big moment on the big stage (more likely). This was Mardy's first quarterfinal appearance in a slam and I think it had finally dawned on him what a big moment it was for him and he got overwhelmed. Similar to what happened to Taylor Dent in the third round at the AO. Similar to what happened to James Blake in his fourth round match with Fernando Gonzalez the other day. They all trembled.

You can read Mardy Fish's postmatch interview here. Most of the questions are about Roddick.

Roddick's postmatch interview is here.

Yet another great oncourt interview with Jim Courier can be viewed here.

DOWNLOAD the great intro to the Roddick-Fish quarterfinal here.

Here We Go Again. Semifinal Blockbuster: Roddick vs Federer

There were so many articles, match analysis, and previews all over the web about this match that I hope you'll forgive me for bypassing my own analysis and prediction while I just cut and paste the good stuff here for you to peruse. My only complaint about these articles is that the Roddick bandwagon suddenly became jam-packed full with all these fickle media snobs jumping on it at the last minute. I think I liked it better when, only a few short months ago, they had all dismissed Roddick as being "nothing special" and that he was an overrated, one slam wonder. Back then, it seemed like Roddick's potential was tennis' best-kept secret that only we, Roddick's loyal fans, and Jimmy Connors knew about.

Enjoy the match tonight everyone. Andy: play well, play hard, and play to win. Good luck!

Against Roddick, Federer May Truly Be Tested
"A victory over Federer would leave Roddick with no reason to hold back. Theirs, for now, is much more a relationship than a rivalry. Federer has won 12 of their 13 matches; his only loss came in the semifinals of the Masters Series event in Canada in 2003, when he was one victory from claiming the No. 1 ranking for the first time.
By the end of the 2003 season, Roddick was ranked No. 1, but Federer had begun to take control of the sport. He has maintained that control for three full seasons, clamping down hard on Roddick in a series of matches in late 2004 and 2005.
But after successfully recruiting Jimmy Connors to help coach him, Roddick has made changes to his backhand and tactics. Above all, he has recovered his sense of the possible."

Rejuvenated Roddick hoping to bounce back
"Roddick will leave all his cards on the table when these two meet for the 14th time. With the bar being set so high by the top player in the world, Roddick has absolutely no reason to hold back. He has the game to beat Federer and move on."

Roddick's project makeover
"Their match tonight (set those DVRs) is shaping up to be the tournament's marquee heavyweight fight. Both players are peaking at just the right time. But while Federer is doing his usual work (dominating, hitting jaw-dropping shots, brushing back his locks after every point like Prince Charming in Shrek), it's Roddick who's been the most impressive. His "project makeover" with coach Jimmy Connors is all coming together."

Rival Challenge: Roddick faces Federer again
"The capital ‘R’ Rivalry in men’s tennis is up for grabs at the Australian Open. For months now, there's been no question about it – the Rivalry is Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal. But while Federer’s spot will be secure for as long as his dominance in the men’s game continues, does Nadal still make up the second half of the game’s most compelling match-up?"

Grab the popcorn. It's the main event; here's why I like a Roddick upset
"Are you pumped or what? The blockbuster semifinal of the Australian Open is near, and it's between seemingly invincible world No. 1 Roger Federer and the significantly improved Andy Roddick. This is what we call in the locker room a "popcorn match," meaning that we're looking forward to it so much that we want to grab a nice bowl of popcorn, get comfortable and settle in for a heck of a battle."

The Main Event: Amped up for Roddick-Federer
Who do you pick in the semis: Andy Roddick or Roger Federer? Roddick's recent successes notwithstanding, I say Federer in four. -- Kevin Knudson, Starkville, Miss.

Picking against Federer is just silly. But can I go on record as saying I give Roddick a reasonable chance? I don't think I've ever seen him play better than he has here. If the serve is clicking and if Federer gets agitated -- the weird gusts of wind clearly frustrated him the other night against Tom Robredo -- this could be interesting.

A lot of you have asked how much weight I put in Roddick's win over Federer at the Kooyong Exhibition. The answer is some. Yes, it's an exhibition. But as Roddick has said (repeatedly), he and Federer played with intentions of winning. I was fired up for Fernando Gonzalez's upset of Rafael Nadal on Wednesday, but Roddick-Federer is a serious popcorn match.

How Gloria's passion survives in Roddick
"After Wimbledon final of 2005, Roddick sought the privacy of the screen-off area below the Royal Box to continuously beat his racket on the ground and implore, ”How do I beat this guy?”. Now he might just have the answer and the late Mrs Gloria Connors has something to do with the realisation. After all, as the well worked saying goes, out of adversity comes strength."

Upset Brewing: Why Roddick Could Beat Federer
"Top-ranked Roger Federer hasn't lost a Grand Slam match away from clay in two years and hasn't lost a set during the 2007 Australian Open. So why is there a sense around Rod Laver Arena that he might be vulnerable to an upset? Because Andy Roddick has seriously upped his level Down Under; that's why."

Roddick feels time is nigh
"If the tennis planets are ever to align to enable Roddick to beat Federer again, tomorrow is the night."

A-Rod facing huge hurdle. U.S. star seeking to break eight-match losing streak vs. Federer
"In his press conference after the match with Fish, Roddick was almost somber, as though he was being careful not to appear too happy to have beaten a guy who has always been like a brother to him. He also showed far less emotion on the court than is customary for him."

Now is the time for Roddick
"I think he's really found his serve again," says Roger Federer. "His serve kind of got lost all of a sudden. He didn't get the same free points any more. He couldn't really put the pressure on the opponent because it was too easy to return his serve. I don't know if it's due to change of tactics or change of conditions. All of a sudden, got really slower. He's definitely picked that up again." Federer's admiration of Roddick's serve is genuine and it is matched by his lack of regard for the importance placed by many on his advantage in head-to-head meetings."

Roddick's Rolling, but Ready for Roger?
"The Australian Open meticulously tracks the performance of its players, and the data it collects offer good news for Roddick. He continues to serve at a remarkable clip: 68% of first serves in, and a 71.6% cumulative winning percentage on all — first and second — serve points. "Either me, or Jimmy, or whoever it is would be an absolute moron to tell him anything on the serve," John Roddick said."

Federer wary of Roddick rockets
"More of a worry for the defending champion Roger Federer is the fact the American - under the inspirational coaching of Jimmy Connors - has rediscovered his mojo after dropping out of the world's top 10 last year. And, with it, the rocket serve that propelled Roddick to No.1 after his 2003 US Open triumph."

Roddick catching up to Federer
"Roddick might not be able to handle Roger Federer in the Australian Open semifinals. But don't count on it. Right now, Roddick is playing just as well as the world's No. 1 player. That's a pretty high level, considering that Federer also has played extremely well in the Australian Open.Remember that exhibition victory by Roddick over Federer nearly two weeks ago? Exhibition? Right, but only on the official stats. The two men involved know otherwise."

Roddick can take Federer
"Andy Roddick has not officially beaten Roger Federer in four seasons but there is a growing band of observers -- including Wimbledon winner Pat Cash -- who believe the American can finally shatter the world champion's aura."

Big questions for A-Rod
"The main plot of tonight's match on Rod Laver Arena is unchanged for the past three years; can Andy Roddick find a way to beat Roger Federer? But this time, the sub-plot is nearly as intriguing, one that will immediately become apparent once Federer walks to the service line."

Improved Roddick Will Offer Federer His Toughest Test
"The swagger of Andy Roddick's style and scream of his serve have served as the exclamatory elements of his declarative game. Roddick's sense of self-belief is higher now than perhaps it's ever been against Federer. While he was largely muted in winning just three sets in his eight straight losses, the fact that Roddick held match points in Shanghai and actually beat Federer in the Kooyong exhibition gives him hope that was previously in short supply. "

Roddick's semi-final game plan may as well come right out of left field
"Andy Roddick and his brother John finished a half-hour practice session yesterday by switching racquet hands and playing a few light-hearted points. That was, most likely, a good indication of the American's relaxed mood ahead of tonight's semi-final against Roger Federer."

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Originally posted January 22, 2007

Oz Afterglow

"That's how Marat likes it.
Long and hard."

— A StarSports commentator talking about MARAT SAFIN's
tendency to get into five set
matches at the Oz Open.

R16: Roddick def Ancic 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 5-7, 6-4
R32: Roddick def Safin 7-6, 2-6, 6-4, 7-6

Read Roddick's postmatch (def Ancic) interview here.
Read Roddick's postmatch interview (def Safin) here.

Life is Beautiful

It took me exactly three days to finally come down from the Safin match high and I still could not enjoy watching the Ancic match because my brain was still processing Safin.

What made the Safin win especially satisfying was the fact that Roddick beat one of the Australian Open's most talented players on tour. I don't care what Safin is ranked now (26), he is a top ten player, and the AO is his favorite tournament. To beat Safin here is almost akin to beating Federer at Wimbledon, and Roddick beat Safin by out-playing and out-thinking him. There's was no "oafing" or choking on Marat's part, he just got outplayed. Roddick also kept his cool while Safin blew his top over line calls. The match was everything I thought it would be, and more.

Roddick stuffs Safin in a classic
U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe called it one of Andy Roddick's best strategic matches ever. He wasn't exaggerating. It was the best big matches he's played, taking it to him, stepping in, hitting his backhand up the line," US Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe said. "It seemed like every ball had more bite on it. Safin played well, too. All round from a strategic standpoint, it was one of his best matches. He's played matches where he's blown guys away, serving bombs, but playing a really quality player and incorporating what he's been working on, it came together as well as it ever has."

Watch the Roddick-Safin highlights here:

Watch Roddick's oncourt interview with Jim Courier after he defeated Marat Safin here.

DOWNLOAD highlights of Roddick-Ancic match here. (thanks to Claire for video)

Watch Roddick's oncourt interview with Jim Courier after he defeated Mario Ancic here.

Always an entertaining and funny interviewee, Andy had discussed fashion with Jim Courier:
Jim Courier and Andy Roddick chatted about fashion before a packed center court crowd at the Australian Open on Sunday. Courier, acting as on-court interviewer in the men's featured matches, was momentarily lost for words after asking Roddick a few questions about his 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 5-7, 6-4 win against Croatia's Mario Ancic.

"OK, last question for you is, uh ... what do you want to talk about?" said Courier, who won two French and two Australian Open titles and had a 58-week run as world No. 1 in the early 1990s.

Roddick, riding high after new coach and another former American champion Jimmy Connors made it to Australia to watch his past two hard-fought matches to reach the fourth round, didn't skip a beat.

"I don't know, you're doing such a good job in the booth, your hair looks nice," Roddick told Courier. "You've come a long way since the striped shirt and the shorts that were way too short. I'm glad that someone's finally dressing you."

"Thanks for the fashion tips," replied Courier, dressed in pinstriped pants and a deep blue shirt. "Wait 'til you retire ... you can dress this well too."

Now I'm ready for another explosive and hopefully just-as-memorable match: Roddick vs Fish in the quarterfinal.
Battle of the Brothers: Roddick vs Fish QF

Roddick-Fish Head-To-Head
Roddick leads 4-1.
2006: Memphis [HARD] (R32) Roddick won 6-3, 6-7(5), 7-6(2)
2004: San Jose [HARD] (F) Roddick won 7-6(13), 6-4
2003: Cincinnati [HARD] (F) Roddick won 4-6, 7-6(3), 7-6(4)
2003: Washington [HARD] (QF) Roddick won 6-1, 6-4
2003: Delray Beach [HARD] (R32) Fish won 7-6(4), 4-3, RET

Their Road to the Quarterfinals
Mardy Fish (USA)
R128: Ivan Ljubicic [4] (CRO) 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-4, 6-4
R64: Nicolas Mahut (FRA) 7-5, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4
R32: Wayne Arthurs (AUS) 3-0, RET
R16: David Ferrer [16] (ESP) 6-1, 7-6(4), 2-6, 7-5

Andy Roddick [6] (USA)
R128: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) 6-7(18 ), 7-6(2), 6-3, 6-3
R64: Marc Gicquel (FRA) 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-4
R32: Marat Safin [26] (RUS) 7-6(2), 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(2)
R16: Mario Ancic [9] (CRO) 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 5-7, 6-4

Mardy talks about his match with Andy in a short interview, Enemies...for a few hours
You and Andy are such good friends. How is playing against him any different from playing against another fellow competitor?
MARDY FISH: It's tough to play friends, but at the same time we are both professionals and we both know how much each other wants to win, so once we get out on the court we will be enemies for a few hours.

What's one way you have to adjust your tennis to play against Andy?
MARDY FISH: We have practiced together so many times so we know exactly how to play each other. We have probably played together hundreds of times.

Give me one funny story about you and Andy growing up together and being friends. (Keep it PG! Haha)
MARDY FISH: Growing up, Andy and I were more like brothers than best friends. We fought a lot and competed at everything from tennis to basketball to racing to school.

In some quarterfinal match previews, Steve Tignor over at gives the edge to Roddick (click on link to read his other match predictions):
Andy Roddick: Ancic-Roddick was the match of the year so far, gritty, fiercely competitive, no nonsense. We can complain about today's game for any number of reasons, but this had just about everything you can ask for. Serves, forehands, and backhands were all hit big; neither player was afraid of the net; the momentum went back and forth; the players played quickly and without much complaint; and you could see them pushing each other to come up with better shots at the crucial moments. Even the handshake was right on: nodded respect, no big smiles or hugs. Roddick seemed to forego a major celebration out of respect for his opponent and the match they had just played.

I think Roddick will beat Fish in four sets, the fourth ending in a tiebreaker. Roddick isn't playing brilliantly, but he is playing with confidence. Fish is a tough guy to break and he'll have nothing to lose, but I doubt he'll have the mental fortitude to overcome his "brother". He's probably content with his result so far; Roddick isn't.

That last line is very revealing, imo.

James Blake doesn't care who wins because, either way, he'll get a free meal out of it:

James Blake won't pick sides when watching Roddick-Fish match.
James Blake has divided loyalties when it comes to cheering for either Andy Roddick or Mardy Fish at their Australian Open quarter-final. But he reckons he'll get dinner out of the winner, anyway.

The fifth-seeded American bowed out of the tournament Monday with a straight-sets loss to Chilean Fernando Gonzalez, and will be watching from the sidelines when his countrymen fight it out on Tuesday for the chance to meet defending champion Roger Federer in the semifinals.

So who will he be cheering for?

"Oh, man, that's a tough one," Blake said.

"Andy has been my Davis Cup teammate for a while. Mardy is my best friend on tour, my neighbour. I got to stay out of that one and just congratulate the winner, then hit them up for dinner."

"I can't really take sides. They're two of my best friends on tour."

Blake said he's just pleased an American made it to the quarterfinals.

No comment from me on Blake crapping out to Fernando Gonzalez during yesterday's fourth round match. I'll rant about it later.

Random photo of the day

If this doesn't make you smile, you're a cold person.

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Originally posted January 18, 2007

The Moody Blues at AO

"[Jimmy has] taught me how to yell at referees."

— ANDY RODDICK. Still a long way off from calling a linesman "an abortion" (as Connors did in 1991).

BREAKING NEWS! Jimmy Connors has arrived in Australia just in time to watch his charge take on Marat Safin tonight. Yay Jimmy!

R64: Roddick def Gicquel 6-3 7-6(4) 6-4
R128: Roddick def Tsonga 5-7(18) 7-6(2) 6-3 6-3

Roddick and Tsonga matched a record for longest tiebreak in Australian Open history but all anybody wants to talk about is whether Roddick was caught calling Tsonga a "f-----g prick" during their intense tiebreak. Well, here's the video. Judge for yourself.

Why wasn't Roddick given a fine for this outburst? Probably because it was not an "audible obscenity". We can see it, but we can't hear it. And if he's going to get fined for anything it would've been for umpire abuse. The crap Andy hurled at Mr. Ramos was at times funny but also unrelenting and he overstepped his bounds. Even Patrick McEnroe and Cliff Drysdale said Roddick wasn't doing himself any favors by behaving like that. I don't mind meltdowns but when Roddick goes after chair umpires like that it makes me nervous because his game doesn't get any better because of it, if anything it gets worse.

A-Rod insult claims ruled out
Australian Open officials yesterday dismissed reports Andy Roddick had verbally abused his young French opponent Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in a tetchy first-round match at Melbourne Park.

Roddick was widely said to have bellowed insults at wildcard Tsonga as the world No. 212 threatened to derail the Texan's grand slam aspirations.

US and British sources said Roddick had been caught on television calling Tsonga a "f---ing prick" after an exchange at the net on Monday.

However Australian Open referee Wayne McKewen said he had heard nothing about a Roddick outburst.

Experienced Portuguese umpire Carlos Ramos drew Roddick's wrath several times.

"I'll end the discussion as soon as you say something like half-intelligent," Roddick fumed at Ramos in the fourth set. He had earlier described Ramas a "glorified score-keeper".

Tsonga led 7-6 (20-18) and 5-2 before Roddick clawed his way to a four-set win.

Roddick, who faces another Frenchman, Marc Gicquel, today, was mauled by US and British websites.

They accused him of "intimidating stares and muttered insults".

Tsonga shrugged off a suggestion that Roddick might have been trying to break his rhythm. "I don't know, maybe," Tsonga said. "But it's a game, you know. You can do that if you want."

Roddick vs Gicquel a.k.a. Tennis fans vs ESPN

I would give you a mini-review of Roddick's match with Frenchman Marc Gicquel except that I didn't see any of it except for the last four games, thanks to college basketball going into triple-overtime and ESPN deciding to give us a live interview with Andre Agassi and Roger Federer for twenty minutes right afterwards. I would be more upset if I had missed anything good but according to some fans who actually saw the match it was a snoozer. Video highlights of the match can be viewed here.

Steve Tignor from mentioned in his blog entry "First Glance" that he is enjoying the player interviews in the ESPN studio. He said, "Roddick’s was revealing; he came across as funny, intelligent, and adolescent in equal measures (He was also caught checking out his hair and skin before he knew the camera was on him.)" He also did a mini-review of the Roddick-Tsonga match: "Watching this alongside Mauresmo-Perry made me think that the men really should be paid more. This was a first-round match between a top seed and a no-name wild card, and there was virtually nothing separating them. As for the match itself, Roddick has improved his court sense around the net (his footwork still isn’t natural up there), but if Tsonga had had just a tiny bit more fight, confidence, or stamina, he would have been up two sets."

A-Rod's struggle brings smile to Federer supporters
"Tony Roche was seen sporting a big grin while chatting on a mobile phone in the corridors of Melbourne Park yesterday.

The reason for the master mentor's joy? Given our spy overheard him saying, "Yes. And he's a break down too", we'll take a punt and say he was talking about Andy Roddick, who at that moment was trailing French wild-card Jo-Wilfried Tsonga by a set and a break.

Perhaps Roddick's defeat of Roche's charge Roger Federer at Kooyong on Saturday frightened their camp more than the Swiss champion let on."

Oncourt interview with Todd Woodbridge that was not telecast on ESPN:
As told by one fan who saw it: "Todd was asking him about line calls and hawk-eye. Andy made a really embarrassing challenge in the 2nd set (he was so sure it was out), and he admitted in the interview that he felt pretty stupid, at that point. He was also joking that he behaved like a "brat" in the Tsonga match, and Todd was admiring his honesty. He made the croud laugh a couple of times and they gave him a HUGE cheer after the interview."

Round Three Clash: Roddick vs Safin

There's not many matches that get me as excited as a Roddick-Safin match. Two tempermental players, evenly-matched. It doesn't get much better than this.

Previews of Roddick vs Safin with teaser lines for you:

Roddick v. Safin: extroverts ready to roar
"How loud can Marat & Andy get in the third round of the Australian Open?"

Grand Slam final in third round
"This contest has night match written all over it. . . . Andy Roddick vs. Marat Safin would be a legitimate matchup at a Grand Slam final. Instead, the two will be meeting in a third-round encounter on Friday at the Australian Open."

Bob Larson's Men's Preview Day Five
"Roddick is playing his 300th hard court match today.The two former world No. 1s are meeting for the seventh time, with their series tied at 3-3. Five of their previous match-ups have been on hard court with Roddick holding a narrow 3-2 lead, having won their last three hard court encounters.This is their second Australian Open meeting, Safin winning their 2004 quarterfinal in five sets (one of eight five-setters that he has won here)."

Roddick discovers a new dimension to set up gripping showdown with Safin
"For most of his career Roddick has been a one-dimensional player, relying on his huge serve and bludgeoning forehand. Last week he described himself as "a hitter" in comparison to "a real player" like Andy Murray, but Connors has given him more confidence in his backhand and volleys and he is not afraid to rally."

Roddick v Safin showdown set to take centre stage
Marat Safin will be gearing up for yet another bruising encounter at the Australian Open on Friday when he faces Andy Roddick in a third-round showdown.
The temperamental Russian has already been on court for more than seven hours after being dragged through two successive five-set marathons.

On Friday, he will have to be on high alert as he faces the thunderbolt deliveries of Roddick, who said on Wednesday the pair were too good to be meeting at such an early stage.

"When I saw the draw I expected to play Marat," sixth-seeded Roddick said after his second-round dismissal of Frenchman Marc Gicquel on Wednesday.

"I think we're both better than a third-round match-up but that's the way it shakes out."

"We both have to deal with it. I'm sure he's not thrilled about it either," said sixth seed Roddick, who is locked at 3-3 in previous meetings with Safin. "We've always had close matches. We're kind of similar, we both like to hit a big ball, we both serve pretty big, move well for being considered big guys. I think it's an interesting match-up for us and maybe for the fans as well."

What Marat Safin said about Roddick during his post-match interview yesterday:
Q. You've beaten Andy Roddick in the semifinal in Moscow in September. Do you think that might have an influence on your third-round match over here?

MARAT SAFIN: Well, it's a different story. It's not Davis Cup. It's not clay court. It's a hard court. It's playing pretty well. It's a new season. If it's Roger Federer in exhibition Kooyong he is full of confidence. He struggled a little bit in the first round and today he looked very solid, serving big. But I am already 100 percent into the game and I had two tough matches, so it's kind of also an advantage for me because I already have been running for seven hours on the court and I'm already warmed up.

Q. What's the dynamic with you and Andy? How does the match decide itself? How does it play out?

MARAT SAFIN: Well, he improved his game. He changed a little bit. He started to improve his backhand, and he's playing a little bit more solid. Other than that, he's using more his serve and he's not running around the baseline. He's trying to go forward and take position at the net. So I don't know, it's very important for us, for both of us, I guess, who is going to be more aggressive at the beginning of the match and who will take the opportunities and who will choke first (laughter). So it's kind of interesting match for both of us. I think he's looking forward. I think he was watching my match and studying me as well as I was studying him, and hopefully it's going to be interesting. I'm pretty sure it's going to be a late match. So let's see how it goes.

Q. These two particular five-setters, how do you feel physically?

MARAT SAFIN: Like I said, warmed up. Well, I'm not really tired, but these kind of matches actually gives me opportunity. Maybe it's a little bit too long, but otherwise I would need one or two matches like this to get the rhythm of the game. Because I lost it a little bit and I was struggling in the first match with the rhythm, and I was all the time making -- I was in the wrong place all the time. I couldn't see the ball right and I couldn't move, and I was a little bit too nervous, like too stiff. And today was completely different. I started to hit the ball pretty well. We were playing around, volleys, serving, that sort of thing. I think it gave me some kind of a confidence, but I'm not tired.

More On Kooyong

What Mardy Fish said about Roddick after defeating Ivan Ljubicic:
Q. Did Andy say, Thanks for knocking Ljubicic out of my quarter?

MARDY FISH: I haven't seen him yet, but I'm sure he will (smiling).

Q. How much has he been helping you emotionally through this period of time?


Q. Yes.

MARDY FISH: He's a great friend. When we get around each other, we tend to talk more tennis than not because, you know, he loves tennis. There's some guys out here that don't watch tennis. I don't think James watches much tennis at all when he's away from the game. He watches it here, watches us play, watches his buddies play. But I don't think he watches much tennis. Obviously, he loves the game, whatever.

Andy and I love tennis. When it's on, I watch it every time. Women's tennis, whatever, I watch it. We talk more tennis than you think. He's just a good friend. He's someone that I can always go to, always ask any question, and he'll always come up with an answer.

You know, I haven't maybe necessarily utilized him as much as I should have in the past year, but he's always there. He's always there to lean on.

Q. Do you think that was a big mental win for him over Federer the other day, or do you throw it out because it's an XO?

MARDY FISH: No, I don't think you throw it out. I watched it. It was a little windy. No, you definitely take that. Maybe if they play here, he gets up early, he can remember stuff that he did. They were both trying.

Roger, he doesn't want too lose, even if it's an exhibition. He definitely doesn't want to lose. Maybe he wasn't taking it completely as this week. But he doesn't want to lose, for sure.

The ever-fickle Matt Cronin chimes in on Roddick's Kooyong win:

A-Rod: A Tough, Never-Say-Die Competitor
"If nothing else, Roddick hates to lose and is still the same fast-taking, big-serving kid who won the '00 US Open juniors. He's a confrontational guy who is very protective of his reputation. To the sometime Texan, sometimes Floridian, that reputation is of a tough, never-say-die competitor who has a big-time game. It's not the reputation of a man who will lie down in front of anyone, even the multitalented Federer."

Peter Bodo from had a live chat on ESPN yesterday afternoon. Here's a Roddick-related question somebody asked:

Scott (Riverside CA): Given Roddick's recent victory over Federer, do you think he has a chance of beating Roger, or do you think he will make it 1 and 13 against him?

Peter Bodo: Scott, 1-13? ouch! Yeah i think Andy is in the upswing again. I saw him a few weeks ago in Florida and he said that he felt that for most of the year Roger was putting distance between himself and Andy, but by the end of the year Andy felt that the gap was being closed. I think Anduy has all the tools to beat Federer, because of his power. But it would sure help for Andy to have fatser courts to mount that effort on. I think Jimmy Connors has Andy right where he needs to be, playing aggressive tennis, putting pressure on his opponent and moving forward. Add a better service return and Andy can beat anyone on a given day.

Justin Gimelstob thinks 2007 could finally be the year of the Roddick:

Andy's the man
Why Roddick is primed for a big year on the ATP Tour

"Andy seems inspired by his new coach, Jimmy Connors, and confident in the team he has around him. . . . Another thing that impressed me was Andy's desire and commitment to his fitness," says Justin Gimelstob.

Random Rumblings from Down Under: for the love of God will somebody PLEASE destroy all of the white clothing in Roddick's warddrobe? Whatever happened to the fun and colorful outfits of years past? Dump the year-round Wimbledon-whites look, Andy, it's not becoming of you. It is boring, dull, snooze! . . . . . . . . . . attention media: enough with the Jimmy Connors questions. It's bad enough that you throw the same Connors-related questions at Roddick ("How has Connors changed your game?" x100000 times) but do you have to ask other players about him? As if they would know what Connors is like as a coach? Or even as a person? Come on, now . . . . . . . . . . sorry to see the entertaining Brad Gilbert leave the ESPN desk to coach Andy Murray but I'm quite happy with what I've seen so far from Andre Agassi's old coach Darren Cahill You can tell that he and Andre have thoroughly analyzed and picked apart other player's games. Agassi's comments about Roddick's game during the Gicquel match were scarily spot-on. Somebody give that man commentating duties, asap . . . . . . . . . . I hate college basketball more than ever now . . . . . . . . . . the honeymoon's over: Marcos Baghdatis, who had a dream run at last year's AO to the final was knocked out in the second round. Baghdatis has admitted that he's not handling the pressure of success well . . . . . . . . . . some very young Nadal fans have been showing up at his matches carrying signs saying "Ninja Turtle." I don't know if this will replace the Raging Bull nickname but I never realized just how much Nadal really does look like a teenage mutant ninja turtle. Cute! . . . . . . . . . . James Blake is growing a beard and it's going to stay there until he loses. "Once I start winning, I don't shave, it's superstition." he says . . . . . . . . . . the soccer hooligan element has creeped into the tennis stands when a riot broke out between Serbs and Croats on the first day of the Australian Open. A rather inauspcious start to the first slam of the year . . . . . . . . . . proof of clown era: in his thirty grand slam appearances, world number four player Ivan Ljubicic has only made it past the third round twice . . . . . . . . . . to be filed under "I can't believe this is on an official website", The Top Ten Tennis Hunks of the Australian Open.


Mextenis said...

Nice pictures and cool information,on tennis, congratulations thanks!

tangerine said...

Thanks, mextenis! Glad you like the blog. Am I correct when I guess that you might be a Gonzalez fan? (not that there's anything wrong with that) ;)

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