For those of you who are watching the arms of Andy:
Pumped-Up Roddick Downs Davydenko In 2004 Debut
Photo By Susan Mullane By Brad Falkner
Andy Roddick is bringing more to the table in 2004. The man who once referred to his arms as "bread sticks", has added beef to the menu
and used the ingredient to dish out a dose of controlled power.*Roddick, whose pipes now resemble Popeye more than Olive Oyl, hit the gym hard over the off season, and hit the ball harder in his season debut today.
The top-ranked Roddick opened the new season by closing out a convincing 6-3, 6-4 victory over the ever dangerous Nikolay Davydenko in the opening-round of the $1 million Exxon Mobil Open in Doha, Qatar.
The reigning U.S. Open champion confided he spent some of his offseason lifting barbells rather than hitting backhands.
"I basically didn't play much tennis (during the off season)," Roddick said "I worked really hard on my fitness. About a week before I got here, Brad (Gilbert) came over for a crash course in tennis."
Though he may have lacked his "A" game, Roddick aced his opening test. Striking his serve with the skill of a grad-school student wielding a number two pencil to master the SAT's, Roddick paralyzed Davydenko in his service games, saving the only break point he faced in the match to make the only grade that matters in the pass-fail world of the ATP Tour.
"I would give myself a B — I was not spectacular tonight," said Roddick. "It's always a little difficult (to play the first match of the year), but it's always good to get that first W."
In addition to earning his first win, Roddick collected a crowd of new fans, winning over the visitors and Qataris with his enthusiasm and exuberance in his first trip to the Middle East.
"I think the crowd could tell that I was excited," Roddick said. "That may have help to get them into it."
The 2003 Australian Open semifinalist*made the most of his break-point chances, converting both of*his service breaks in the match. Roddick broke serve in the sixth game of the first set and again in the*seventh game of the second set.*
"I did what I had to do and I controlled the match with my serve, and took care of business on my break points," Roddick said.
In addition to his improved fitness regimen, Roddick is working on his return game*to*help maximize*break point opportunities. The man who led the ATP Tour in aces (989), service games won (91 percent), first-serve points (81 percent), break points saved (69 percent) and tied Roger Federer for second place in second-serve points won (59 percent) in 2003 is committed to improving his return game in an effort to apply even more pressure to opponents.
It's an intelligent approach: Roddick's serve is such a dominant weapon if he can improve his return game, beating him will be about as easy as winning an arm-wrestling match with King Kong.
"I'm working on my return game so I won't have to rely so much on my serve to win matches," said Roddick, who plans to play doubles here with Stefan Koubek, his possible opponent in next month's opening-round Davis Cup tie at the Mohegan Sun.
Roddick got off to a solid start in 2003, winning 10 of his first 13 matches. But the Boca Raton resident really fully found his form after hiring Brad Gilbert as his coach following his first-round flame-out to Sargis Sargsian in the opening round of Roland Garros. Under Gilbert's guidance, Roddick sharpened his shot selection, simplified his approach to the sport by playing to his strengths and played with a powerfully commanding presence in claiming five of his six tournament titles and winning 46 of his final 53 matches over the final six months of the season.
At 21 years, four months, Roddick remains the youngest man in the top 10 and as he adds more weapons to his arsenal that forms its foundation on perhaps the most formidable serve-forehand combination in the game, he should become even more dangerous in his march to more majors.