Steve Tignor previews Indy
Who will have more success, Andy Roddick or James Blake?
Just as Blake has turned himself into a consistent force, Roddick’s stature in the sport has at least temporarily been lowered. Blake is now ranked No. 6, while Roddick, at No 11, has fallen out of the Top 10 for the first time in three years. They’re both scheduled to kick off the hard-court season next week in Indy, where Roddick has won twice. I feel like Andy reached a low in his loss to Murray, a match where his weaknesses were exposed, and that he has few expectations for himself at the moment. This may help him go out and play more instinctively during his favorite part of the year (I have no reason for saying this; wishful thinking, I guess.). Blake will also be in his element through the summer; he could easily win two Open Series events, and will challenge at the Masters. But at the biggest tournaments, there’s still some question of the depth of his desire. As my friend Jon Levey says, Blake may have too much perspective at this point in his life to have the killer instinct that you need to make it all the way through a Slam. There are certainly worse problems to have.
Another U.S. player of note will be in Indy, as a couple commenters mentioned: Californian Sam Querrey, who took a wildcard into the event. Querrey, 18 and 6-foot-6, has made tremendous strides in the last two years. He decided to turn pro rather than go to USC this fall. The decision was apparently helped by a push from Roddick, who told him he had the game for the pros. He’s got a huge serve and a smooth, compact forehand for such a big guy, though I really don’t know if he’s Top 10 material (anyone else have an opinion?). He lost to Murray today in Newport 5 and 2, but if you’re wondering about the future of U.S. tennis in the wake of the Wimbledon debacle, he’s at least someone we can take a look at over the summer.
What happens to the Federer-Nadal rivalry now?
They’re both scheduled for August’s Toronto and Cincinnati Masters events, which they split last year, so you have to figure they’ll meet at least once before the U.S. Open. Nadal is 2-1 against Federer on hard courts, but Fed is the far more accomplished player on the surface—he was 50-1 on it last year. They’ve each won their home-court Slams; the hard-court season will make the perfect, neutral-field final leg for them in 2006. It also may lead to tight matches, but you have to like Federer. While they both have all-world forehands, Fed’s is more suited to hard courts. He uses less backswing, hits with less height and more depth, and leans into it, which enables him to control the middle of the court, which is the real key to hard-court tennis. And if anyone is going to struggle to reach the finals, it will be Nadal, who has a couple scores to settle with James Blake.
Get ready for the Fedfans to start jumping on the Blake bandwagon again this summer.