Re: The "OMBG, Andy's Trying to Set the Jet-Lag Record" Spring Indoor/HC Thread
Andy will play Michael Ryderstedt Tuesday night in the first round... they've never played
Defending SAP Open champ Andy Roddick building on his Austrailian Open run
By Darren Sabedra
Posted: 02/08/2009 06:39:37 PM PST
SAN JOSE — Since Andy Roddick captured his third SAP Open title a year ago, he has changed coaches (again), recommitted himself to conditioning and made a surprising run to the Australian Open semifinals.
He still can't beat Roger Federer on a Grand Slam stage, but few players not named Rafael Nadal can.
If anything, Roddick, 26, has strengthened his grip as the top-ranked American as he returns to HP Pavilion this week to defend the title he won with a 6-4, 7-5 rout of Radek Stepanek.
Roddick split with coach Jimmy Connors last spring (Connors was reluctant to travel) and in December hired the renowned Larry Stefanki, who has worked with John McEnroe and helped Marcelo Rios and Yevgeny Kafelnikov reach No. 1.
Under Stefanki, Roddick dropped 15 pounds with a conditioning regimen that included a more disciplined diet and a lot of time on the track. The results helped the big-serving Roddick reach his first Grand Slam semifinal since the 2007 Australian Open, but will they ultimately lead him to a second major title?
Though Roddick is one of two players to finish in the top 10 in each of the previous seven years — Federer is the other — the mountaintop for Grand Slam championships keeps getting higher. For instance, it would have taken victories over the world's top three players — Novak Djokovic, Federer and Nadal — in successive rounds for Roddick to have won the Australian Open.
"You look at Nadal and Roger, they just sort of have this extra gear, and they can play great with a lot less energy," all-time men's Grand Slam winner Pete Sampras said.
Longtime pro and former Stanford All-American Paul Goldstein, now retired, likes the consistency and discipline that Stefanki has brought to Roddick's game. He also believes the Australian Open run shows that Roddick's best days are not behind him.
"There are a handful of people in the history of the modern game that finished top 10 in the world seven consecutive years; Andy's one of them," Goldstein said. "He's had a phenomenal run and, if not for the greatest player in the history of the game to come along at the same era that Andy was playing, you're looking at four or five Grand Slam titles instead of the one he has."
Perhaps the new voice in his corner will help.
"Larry's track record speaks for itself," said Roddick, ranked No. 6 in the world. "He was the first person I thought of. I was lucky enough that he thought it would be a good fit."
Roddick struggled through much of last year, trying to come back from a shoulder injury that forced him to withdraw from the French Open in May. He lost in the second round at Wimbledon and in the quarters at the U.S. Open.
All but forgotten when he arrived in Australia for the year's first major, Roddick reached the final of a tune-up tournament, losing to Andy Murray. He then dethroned the Australian Open's defending champion, Djokovic, in the quarterfinals when Djokovic retired because of heat-related issues. Roddick led 6-7 (3-7), 6-4, 6-2, 2-1.
Asked afterward about Roddick's game, Djokovic, ranked third in the world, said, "He's more aggressive on the return. I think his coach has an impact on that. He's been playing really well.''
Despite another one-sided loss to Federer a round later — Federer's 16th victory in 18 matches against the American — Roddick left Australia feeling optimistic.
"Roger had a really good night against me," Roddick said. "But there were a lot more positives than negatives for me coming out of Melbourne. It had been two years since I made the semis of a Slam. I felt great physically. I was healthy. I was able to be consistent."
The most encouraging sign, Roddick said, was that he broke serve in about 30 percent of his return games, which would make it daunting for almost anyone to defeat him.
"If I can break one out of every three return games, I'm going to give myself a shot in a lot of matches," Roddick said.
But can he win another Slam?
"It's impossible to predict," Roddick said. "There are two ways of going — either progressing forward or you're not. For the last two or three years, it's been not. I just want to start that progression forward. I feel like I made a pretty good start at that in Australia, and I'll look to build on it."