I always love to see what the British press says when one of their guys loses
Rusedski loses big-serve battle
By Mark Hodgkinson in Rome
As Greg Rusedski departed the Rome Masters last night after his third-round defeat, the Foro Italico welcomed the man who beat him, American Andy Roddick, into the quarter-finals on these red clay courts for only the second time in his career.
Rusedski's run was not blocked, as many would have thought at the start of the week, by a clay-court specialist - one of those Spaniards or South Americans who have spent their tennis lives splattered with red dirt - but by an opponent who, like him, has a fast serve, but also not much history of success on the slowest of surfaces. Roddick, though the world No 5, is about as far away as possible from being a clay-court specialist.
Rusedski's 7-6, 6-2 defeat can be explained by the power of Roddick's serve.:retard: (what about the fact that he can also hit groundstrokes??? )
The young Texan holds the record for the world's fastest serve at 155mph, and though in the past his delivery has been slowed down by clay, yesterday he produced an awesome display of controlled violence off his strings.
Roddick's serves were kicking up off the surface, and Rusedski was often left hitting his returns from around his ears, or wafting his racket at thin air. The British No 2 won just seven points on Roddick's serve in the entire tie. A match against the American is probably the only time that Rusedski, himself capable of searing serves and once the record-holder, suffers from service envy.
Rusedski and Roddick meeting on the middle afternoon of the Rome Masters was not what the tennis world had been predicting when the draw was made, and it was hardly a master class on the dark baseline arts of playing on the slow stuff. But there was a certain novelty value about two fast servers sharing a court at the Foro Italico at this stage of the tournament.
Both have made the most of their opportunities here, with Rusedski having won back-to-back matches on clay for the first time since the last millennium and also ensuring that he would become the British No 1 again on Monday morning, replacing teenager Andy Murray. "I'm satisfied with my week," Rusedski said.
Roddick reached the semi-finals here on his first appearance in Rome in 2002, but that probably remains the best result of his career on clay. He has never gone beyond the third round of the other two Masters Series events on the surface, and he has won only four matches on his five visits to Roland Garros for the French Open.
Roddick's problems on clay have traditionally been substantial. The terracotta courts have taken the edge off his serve, tempered his forehand, and also exposed the technical weaknesses in his suspect double-handed backhand. But here in Rome he has been working hard on rectifying the natural clay-court inadequacies in his game. His first instinct on all surfaces is to smack the felt off the ball, but he has tried to introduce some more variety into his groundstrokes.
No doubt, though, Roddick has been helped by conditions in Rome being faster than they are at the other tournaments on the surface, especially with the sun out yesterday afternoon.