Sunday, April 4, 2010

This Old Dog Still Has Tricks

Will Andy Roddick's triumph in Miami lead to bigger and better victories?

What was most impressive about Andy Roddick's first Masters 1000 title since 2006 wasn't so much the tricks that he had in his bag - it was more the wisdom that he now possesses about when and how to use those tricks.

Down a set as the heavy underdog to Rafael Nadal in the semifinals in Key Biscayne, Roddick mustered a surprising comeback effort to derail the Spaniard in three hard fought sets. The eye-opening upset was concrete evidence of the maturation process that the 27-year-old Roddick has undergone over the course of the last year.

After having little to no success against the formidable Nadal from the baseline on Friday, Roddick wisely switched courses during the second set and consequently proved that he is more than just a serve-booming forehand-crushing American with an attitude. Not anymore, at least. Roddick is also a student of the tactical elements of the game, and more importantly, he's intelligent enough to recognize - and address - tennis dilemmas as they occur on the court in real time. On this day, Roddick was willing - and unafraid - to change his approach to Nadal on the fly, and because he did so he gave Nadal more to think about than just executing his punishing ground strokes against another deer-in-the-headlights opponent.

"My comfort zone of moving the ball around and maybe chipping it around doesn't work against Rafa," he told the media after his semifinal win. "I had to try to come up with something that at least took him out of his comfort zone a little bit, and it paid off."

In Sunday's final against Tomas Berdych, Roddick was once again strategically superior to his opponent, as he deployed a steady variation of pace and shot selection that kept Berdych from firing on all cylinders (no small task this week, just ask anybody else who played him). "Today I was smart with chipping and mixing paces, which kept him guessing," Roddick would later say.

After weathering some rough seas in 2009, where his best intentions seemed to always come up against a wall of heartbreak, things now look much more promising for the Nebraska native. The prestigious Miami title will no doubt provide him with proof that his commitment to fitness, willingness to adapt his game to the the specific liabilities of his foes, and his uncanny ability to "take a licking and keep on ticking" will eventually lead him to more opportunities to increase the trophy inventory at his Austin, Texas digs.

With his 2nd Miami title (the first came in 2004), Roddick now joins Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Roger Federer, and Ivan Lendl as one of five players to have won the event more than once.

Not too shabby for a player who once called himself "the best bad player of all time."

"You learn more about the game having been around it," Roddick told Bill Simmon's of Inside Tennis in a recent interview. "What I did at the beginning of my career, having huge holes in my game but being able to cover them up with strengths...I don't think that would work now. You don't see someone with just one shot."

In a month that saw such tennis icons as Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, and Murray shut out of the finals altogether, the old dog Roddick and his ever growing bag of tricks finally has something to show for all his dedication.


  1. Nice analysis of Roddick's form during Miami. I, along with a lot of other people, was surprised and delighted by Roddick's change of tactics versus Nadal in their match. Today's title win over Berdych proves that Roddick is definitely in the mix for the rest of the year. With the other top names citing burnout or being wornout so early in the year, it's nice to see Roddick, who still wants each win, no matter where it is on the tour, prevail in a big event. Perhaps the "top tier" can learn from the American. But I doubt it.

  2. Chris, You are right again! Andy Roddick has many tennis weapons at his disposal. His instinctive shot selection against Rafael Nadal and Tomas Berdych serve as evidence of the tennis wisdom he has gained since 2006.

  3. Just finished watching the match and yes I like Roddick's new game!

    He even had words with the chair during the Nadal match and didn't let that impact his game.

    It's nice to see him play like this.

  4. I must also say,nice analysis. I was truly happy for Roddick and so very impressed by his "on the spot" switching of tactics to beat his opponents in the semi and final. Mentally, as of now, he seems even above the top players. Andy had the tools,saw the need and applied them on the spot. As much as I like Fed and the rest, I wouldn't be surprised that if Andy could figure them out in a match, he could change tactics and win. Roddick up in the top five or winning a slam? He might be able to truly believe now. Anyway, I just thought the Nadal match was beautiful for Roddick.

  5. Nice analysis, Chris. Thank you for the write-up. Roddick doesn't get enough credit for his tennis smarts, he is easily the most underrated and underappreciated player in this generation.


  6. You really have to admire the way Roddick stays the course and keeps looking for answers out there. Wins over Soderling and Nadal in the last two events are proof that he could cause some serious problems for the rest of the top ten this year.

    Not only will this be good for him, but it will also be good for Isner and Querrey to see what hard work and perseverance can do for a career.

  7. Bruce Jenkins wrote a nice "inside tennis" piece about Roddick this week - here's the link...


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