Join Date: Sep 2002
Location: Sydney, Australia
Interesting article before the semifinal
From Sydney Morning Herald
by Richard Hinds
After such a grand performance, can Roddick come back for his encore?
After the match that had everything, one obvious question remained: Has Andy Roddick got anything left?
Having survived what was not merely one of the longest but also one of the best and most dramatic encounters seen at Melbourne Park, can Roddick get himself spruced up in time for his date with Rainer Schuettler in this evening's semi-final.
Perhaps the answer is in the hands of Roddick's Brazilian masseur, Cicero De Castro, who spent a good deal of time yesteday trying to keep the American's tried limbs loose. There was also treatment for blisters and calluses on Roddick's feet, not that the 20-year-old needed to be carried from the court after he had finally shaken off the brave and persistent Younes El Aynaoui.
Indeed, after precisely five hours on court and a final set that lasted almost 2 and a half hours, Roddick did not feel a twinge of cramp. Yesterday he was back on an outside court, hitting balls just 15 hours after his match finished. Such endurance, he believes, is the benefie of a rigorous off-season training program.
"I got some food in me right away last night, a massage last night and this mornign and that's going to contimue throughout the day and some tomorrow," said Roddick, who was confident he would be at full fitness.
Yet, no matter how long he spends on the rub-down table, Roddick now enters unfamiliar territory. Not only will he play his first grand slam semi-final, he will do so after an ordeal few players have experienced.
How tough was it? Anyone who hires their tennis court by the half-hour will need a massage agter merely reading the statistics from Roddick's epic 4-6, 7-6(7-5), 4-6, 6-4, 21-19 triumph.
Among the recouds, or near recouds, established when the last shot was played at 12:40am yesterday: the last set was the longest in grand slam history in terms of numbers of games played. The 83 games played were the most at an Australian Open since tie-breakers were introduced in 1971. And the five-hour duration was second only to Boris Becker's five-hour and 11-minute marathon in the third round against Omar Camporese in 1991.
Roddick could take some heart from Becker's experience. The German great not only beat Wayne Ferreira in straight sets in the next round, he went on to win the title. But Becker was a hardened grand slam champion, Roddick is yet to prove he is anything more than the winner of a famous preliminary bout.
However, although Roddick would not agree, in some ways it does not matte what happens next. Like the Agassi-Sampras semi-final two years ago, the Roddick-El Aynaoui match was one of those rare gems that will be remembered regardless of its consequences. As Roddick said, he did not even know El Aynaoui before the match. Now? "We could see each other 10 years down the line and know that we did share something pretty special," he said.
This match was elevated because in the face of an awkward, dangerous opponent Roddick displayed the heart and will-to-win some of his contemporaries lack. It was memroable because El Aynaoui never quite looked like he had the game to win, yet dragged himself to within a point of victory. It was an all-time classic because, at the most vital moments, points were not merely conceded with tired errors but seized with crunching winners or impossivle volleys.
When mistakes were made, they merely inspired the man who committed them--more often El Aynaoui--to come up with something brave or spectacular.
Perhaps the only thing that detracted from Roddick's performance were his sustained attacks on the French umpire Pascal Maria. But even when A-Rod became A-Rude, his outbursts were entertaining.
"Have you heard of that part of the back that's called a spine?" Roddick asked Maria after he refused to over-rule a close call. "Get one."
Even in victory Roddick was not in a forgiving mood. "At the end I was impressed that he could count to 21," he said of Maria. Since he lost a tumultuous US Open quarter-final to Lleyton Hewitt in 2001, Roddick's theatrical, sometimes hysterical behaviour has been cast as a weakness-- perhaps the reason he was yet to shine at the majors. But rather than a sedative, it is apparent what Roddick really needed was the confidence that comes from winning tough matches on big occasions.
He acknowledged coming back from two sets and a break down against Russian Davis Cup hero Mikhail Youzhny in the third round had contributed to his victory over El Aynaoui.
The question now is whether that grand performance will make him even more confident or if the physical toll he paid will prove too great.