"The stamina man"
, an article by Alix Ramsay after the quarterfinals over Roddick from AO site.
Tennis Australia will have to dig deep into the coffers if Marin Cilic keeps on winning.
After he had survived yet another five-set epic, his third of the tournament, to beat Andy Roddick 7-6(4) 6-3 3-6 2-6 6-3, he shared his joy with the crowd by throwing his official Australian Open towels into the crowd. He threw handfuls of them away – and carefully handed one to a little girl who could not reach through the throng – and those things cost $55. He could break the bank if he reaches the final.
Cilic had good cause to be delighted. He had just survived an emotional roller-coaster of a match, one that, for two sets, he was winning with ease against an injured opponent, and then one that he almost let slip away from him for two sets as Roddick staged a remarkable comeback.
Roddick had first felt something untoward in his right shoulder in the fifth set of his previous match as he slugged it out with Fernando Gonzalez. When he went to serve or hit a high forehand, he felt a sharp pain, and after the first set against Cilic, he also had a tingling sensation down his arm and his fingertips felt numb. This was clearly not a good sign.
But Roddick is now one of the older generation on the tour, and as a veteran of 35 previous Grand Slam campaigns, he has a wealth of experience upon which to draw. Cilic, on the other hand, was playing only his second major quarter-final, and was sailing into uncharted waters. Roddick’s game plan was simple: hang in there as long as possible in the hope that Cilic may get tight. And, amazingly, it almost worked.
Throughout his career, various coaches have tried to find a way to harness Roddick’s power and fighting spirit – not to mention a serve and a forehand that could kill a yak at 100 paces – and turn it into a consistent championship-winning whole. Many coaches tried, but their suggestions only worked for a while before Roddick reverted to his old ways. And then along came Larry Stefanki.
Stefanki has managed to curb Roddick’s more wayward on-court habits and has instilled a new belief in his charge. From being on the verge of retirement 18 months ago, Roddick now plays with controlled aggression, has a variety of game plans and has re-established himself as a threat at the big tournaments.
But, bizarrely, it was reverting to type that kept the American in the match. Unable to hit with any topspin, Roddick was hitting flat and clattering it for a winner whenever the opportunity presented itself – and sometimes when it didn’t. It was the all-or-nothing tennis he used to play as a teenager, but for two sets it worked. The sight of Roddick, all 88kg of him, flinging himself at the ball frightened the living daylights out of Cilic as the third and fourth sets whistled by him.
By the fifth set, though, Cilic was trying simply to focus on the point in front of him. Once he got his first game on the scorecard, he relaxed a little, and then when Roddick made a couple of errors to drop his serve and go 3-1 down, Cilic could at last breathe easy. By that stage, Roddick could not feel two of the fingers on his right hand, which left him struggling to control every shot.
“I was playing pretty high‑risk and the ball was dropping in for a couple of sets,” Roddick said.
“Like I said, I even think I hit it pretty decent in the fifth. The two balls, the two forehands, that I missed to get broken were after I hit five or six balls pretty firm before that.
“It ended up, you know, working out for me okay from the baseline. I was just having to break too many times.”
For Cilic, he has a semi-final to ponder, while Roddick heads for the doctor’s office to find out exactly what is causing the pain in his shoulder.
“All signs at this point are good,” Roddick said. “Sounds like something, whether it was a nerve that was compressed or something, I don't know, cutting off something. But they don't think it's going to be anything too serious long‑term.
“I'm sure we'll take the proper precautions and check it out. But at this point, I'm not real, real scared about it.”