NO more wimpy returns on second serve, Andy Roddick has promised. No more going into a defensive shell when the balls are not in his hands.
It's time, said the No.1 player in the United States, for a complete and consistent change of attitude when he's not serving.
"Constant aggression. That's going to be my mantra in 2006," Roddick said as he prepares for the Australian season.
"Yeah, absolutely," Roddick added without hesitation when he was asked if it wasn't time for him to get riskier with his service returns after a 2005 season in which he reached one grand slam semi-final (Australia), finished runner-up in another (Wimbledon) but fell on his face in the other two.
"My biggest problem is when I get passive. When I have a mindset of constant aggression, I get better," he insisted.
For too much of this past season Roddick did little more than block back first and second serves, allowing opponents to dictate the baseline rallies and diminish his edge as a power player.
He did a better job after the US Open, winning 11 of 13 matches and taking the title at Lyon, France, with a win in the final over France prodigy Gael Monfils. But Roddick now wants a full year of super-aggressiveness on service returns.
He begins his campaign in the Kooyong Classic before the Australian Open, starting on January 16.
It's not hard to understand why he's ready to take more risks.
He led the ATP Tour this year by winning 93 per cent of his service games. But he won only 22 per cent of his return games, well back of tour leader Rafael Nadal, who won 39 per cent of his.
"I'm not going to nurse those balls back if I get the second serve I want. "You hit a big return and you're in the guy's head a little more," said Roddick.
The tactics make plenty of sense. Roddick will rarely lose his serve, which puts pressure on his opponents to win theirs.
And if they know Roddick is going to take a big cut at the second serve, it pressures them to hit a more conservative first serve.
"It's all mindset," said Roddick. "If you're trying to scrape by, you kind of play safer. I have to get over that."
His coach Dean Goldfine said he and Roddick will sit down soon to go over a whole list of goals for 2006, and getting more aggressive with service returns will be a major part of the conversation.
He's not going to be able to start crashing every second serve.
There are players, such as Roger Federer and Ivan Ljubicic, who have excellent second serves.
He's not going to get a long look at those balls and may have to pick and choose spots to blast back returns.
But against most players he'll be playing chancier tennis, perhaps even taking balls early by playing inside the baseline, as Andre Agassi does. This new sense of aggressiveness is perhaps the most important thing Roddick has come to understand about his game.
"I've got to play my personal style and the one thing I can do is hit the ball pretty big," he said.
"But there are times when I didn't, and that's when I got into trouble."
Roddick did not have a bad year, winning 59 and losing 14 with five titles.
But the first round loss at the US Open and the second round loss at the French, when he was up two sets and a break on Jose Acasuso, were major setbacks.
Nevertheless, he finished at No.3, down only one spot from 2004, and it's difficult to feel bad about dropping behind Roger Federer and No.2 Nadal, who won a combined 23 titles.
We will see if he holds true to his word.