fredag den 3. juli 2009

Wimbledon semi-final: Roddick beats Murray!

I wil admit that I didn't think Roddick would ever reach another grand slam final.

And in the post match interview a few hours ago, after brilliantly beating the much favored Andy Murray, he strongly hinted that following last season, he didn't even think so himself, but after deliberation with swimsuit-model-wife Brooklyn Decker, decided making a full commitment:

Q. You said when you came off the court that you weren't sure, it's been a little while since you thought you'd make a Grand Slam final. Did you ever really seriously doubt that you would be back here?

ANDY RODDICK: Oh, yeah, yeah. Last year after I played here, I mean, that was a hard, hard couple of weeks.

You know, Brook and I had a lot of talks on where I thought ‑‑ if I still thought I could play and at least be, you know, towards the top of the game. I definitely openly questioned it at that point. You know, then the rest of the year I was kind of hurt.

So this off‑season, we said, You know what, if you're not gonna be up there, let's at least not wonder. Let's prepare yourself and give yourself every opportunity.

You know, I did work real hard and, you know, was committed, and have been committed, you know, from everything to diet to sleep to everything. So, you know, I certainly gave myself every opportunity to succeed.

Q. Back to the conversation you had with your wife at the end of last year of whether you could play or not. What side did you take and what side did she take?

ANDY RODDICK: It was a year ago here. I was probably leaning towards not really playing that well. She didn't really know much about tennis, so she thought I was playing real great (laughter).

Q. And she convinced you?

ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, she thought I looked cute in the shorts.

Part of that commitment was hiring coach Larry Stefanki who previously in my opinion quite clearly helped lift the games of extremely talented enigmas such as Marcello Rios and Fernando Gonzalez.

As well as an already very accomplished player like Yevgeny Kafelnikov at a time when he was going a little bit stale.
Stefanki tuned him back into winning tennis, resulting not least in a second grand slam.

During a great Australian Open interview by Mats Wilander this year I was so impressed with Stefanki's thoughts and comments about the work that he had done with Roddick that I thought it to be a possibility even that Roddick could upset Federer in their scheduled match there.
Which I might add is really saying something!

Federer of course once again blew Roddick off court but I still had Stefanki's words printed in my brain and thought there was a chance at least that Roddick could have a great year.
I will touch more upon what Stefanki said in my final's preview tomorrow, since a lot of it was what Roddick would need to do to have any chance against Roger.

But one of the things he said, and we all know that by now, was that he had Roddick lose some weight.
15 pounds is what is being reported.
He convinced Roddick that he was a "big body guy" and that he had to lose weight if he wanted to improve his movement.

In order to have any chance whatsoever of playing the great all-court game he managed today against Murray his movement had to be much improved and it really was, whether it was sideways or well timed forward movement to the net.

Improved movement probably also helped him getting in great position to Murray's still weakish 2nd serve, which he unusually for Roddick, effectively took advantage of.
The usual clumsy return errors just were not present in this match.

In the Wilander interview Stefanki was very open about it and said, what we all know, that Roddick's return game just had not been good in 3 or 4 years now and improving it was top priority. Job well done I say!

Another focus point was what he saw as nervous energy always coming from Roddick and how he thought that was something to work on as well.

Something like that is of course difficult bordering on pointless to try and tell from an outside observer's point of view, but with a grain of salt I will say, especially given the unique environment, that Roddick came across as more calm and collected than what we've seen often in the past.
No frantic walking around between points, the obsessive shirt pulling or general signs of impatience.
Just focus focus focus.

Then yesterday there was this interesting article on BBC SPORT. These are the most interesting parts:

BBC 5 Live's tennis pundit Jeff Tarango says the outcome could depend on how aggressive Roddick is with his returns and feels he must take a chance by going for a winner whenever he can.

"With the first serve, you have to give Roddick the tilt. Then again, Murray could have the more successful winning percentage because Roddick's returning isn't as good as Murray's. That will be the number one key factor, and it will be close.

"The second factor is the second serve return. You have to remember that Andy Roddick's second serves are around 120mph - Andy Murray's second serve right now is between 75 and 90mph.

"But we don't know if Roddick is going to be too nervous to go after the second serve on a regular occasion, or just see that thing as a big beach-ball and crush it.

"If Roddick completely crushes every second serve he sees - and he is capable of it - then Murray is in a lot of trouble. If he doesn't attack, or get the chance to, Murray has a huge advantage and can win easily."

They last clashed in Doha in January, when Murray easily came out on top 6-4 6-2.

The memory of that defeat led Stefanki to suggest on Wednesday that Roddick could try less aggressive tactics this time in a bid to upset the Scot's rhythm.

Tarango, however, feels Roddick must ignore that advice if he is to have any chance.

"I think that would be absolutely terrible coaching," added Tarango. "If Roddick plays less aggressively against Murray, Murray will work him round the court, keep him on the run and wear him out - then he won't be serving as well.

"If his coach told him that, that might have just cost him the championships."

Tarango believes Roddick is now a better overall player than he was when he was world number one and was particularly impressed with the way he came through his marathon five-set quarter-final win over Lleyton Hewitt on Wednesday.

"I saw something in the Hewitt match that I have been speaking about to Andy's brother John this week," the American added.

"He started hitting his backhand better than he's ever hit it in his life. He was turning his hip a lot, poking that shoulder down and walloping it - and that's really what pulled that match out for him.

"If he is able to keep that shot up against Murray then he has got a fantastic chance."

But Murray's form this year makes the world number three the favourite to progress and Tarango still believes he holds the edge.

"Roddick has the best first serve in the world but Murray serves a little bit smarter," he explained.

"He's also a little bit better in terms of scraping balls out, grinding points out and adapting his game. Andy Roddick is kind of a cookie-cutter player - every single point, he's playing the same.

"It's very difficult to predict how this one will go but I think Murray will edge it in four sets."

After especially the first set today it was tempting to take Tarango's rather harsh dismissal of Stefanki's call for patience and make fun of it.

In that first set through his improved movement, as well as the backhand Tarango is talking about, Roddick played patient, mixed it up and just didn't give Murray, the great defensive player, anything real to counter.
And by not playing overly agressive of course he greatly reduced his number of unforced errors.

Common sense, like Tarango says, would suggest that this wouldn't give Murray much trouble and that his superiour hands and backcourt game would take control and move the usually somewhat clumsy Roddick around almost at will.
But Roddick throughout was right with him and in control.
No doubt helped along by an 80+ 1st serve percentage but still, he stayed with him in most backcourt rallies. Even controlling a lot of them.

If you can blame Murray for anything this match it was probably not adjusting more quickly there, and not keep waiting for Roddick to move in on bad approach shots or try for low percentage winners, cause that just wasn't happening today and Murray probably in that first set should have looked more for the initiative.

To his credit Murray did play more agressive the rest of the match and to be honest there really wasn't much between them at all.
It's easy to say Roddick's serve was just too dominating but arguably Murray with his improved 1st serve gave Roddick as much trouble as Roddick gave him.

One biggie like I touched upon earlier, and to his credit Tarango predicted this, was Roddick's demolition of the Murray 2nd serve.
I remember Patrick McEnroe already on I think Roddick's first year on tour declaring Roddick's 2nd serve one of the best ever and the incredible bounce he gets on it out wide is still great to watch.

All in all this was probably Roddick's finest match since the Gilbert days and huge credit to Stefanki as well for the work he's done with a player who had gone very stale and unlike all his rivals disastrously not improved for a long time.

Today the improvement was there for all to see and it was great!

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