Nice preview, Fumus. Thanks for that.
It's not just us and PMac and Pam Shriver who are positively giddy about this new Andy. Here's another writer who can't wait to see what USO holds for our man
Roddick On The Right Horse
August 22, 2006
When I arrive in New York later this week, I expect to find a rejuvenated Andy Roddick, bubbling over with self-confidence and ready to reassert himself at the venue where he won his only Grand Slam, in 2003.
This post-Wimbledon summer wasn't the way Roddick planned it. He was going to play week after week, singles and some doubles. Just play. Just get out there and feel the game again. And, though a muscle pull took a couple tournaments out of his schedule, he still got in 13 matches, won 12, and goes to the U.S. Open with his first title of the year.
What's changed since he left Wimbledon, despondent and wondering what he needed to do to get back to the top?
No doubt Jimmy Connors is part of the answer. He's an intense guy who brings fire to the practice court and has translated that back into Roddick's persona. But Connors can't swing the racket for Andy and, after watching him through Indianapolis and Cincinnati, you can see where the mental differences are making a physical difference on court.
Connors and brother John Roddick have finally pushed Andy to make the fundamental changes in his game that brought back his 2003-05 aggression and they're all things Roddick knew he had to do. The difficulty was getting someone to influence him to do it, and you have to credit Connors for that.
Here are the key areas:
* Serving. There has never been a question about Andy's ability to hit a serve 140 mph, but he's mixing speeds better, is less predictable and getting better and more consistent location than he was earlier in the year. In 10 sets at Wimbledon, he averaged 6.1 aces a set -- on grass, where it's a lot easier to get aces than even a fast hardcourt. In 13 sets at Cincinnati last week, Roddick averaged 6.5 aces per set. He faced 21 break points in three matches at Wimbledon (7.0 per match). This summer, at Indy, Los Angeles and Cincinnati, he's faced 26 break points in 13 matches (2.0 per match). This is the championship serving that won him the '03 U.S. Open.
* Hugging the baseline. Before this season began, Roddick talked in strong terms about getting inside the baseline, particularly on second serves, to take the ball earlier and shorten the distance his shots have to travel. He talked about stepping inside the baseline and taking a whack. But old habits are tough to break and only now, post-Wimbledon, has his positioning at the baseline look like a serious part of his game plans.
* Backhands. It's been a long time -- maybe never -- since Roddick believed in his backhand as much as he does now. He's no longer just using it as a rally shot, but he has enough confidence in it to hit some risky backhands down the line, and it's working. And the more it works, the stronger his confidence in hitting it. He's always had a dangerous backhand passing shot, as long as he didn't have to hit it on the run. It's now at least a semi-weapon in the longer rallies.
* Volleying. He's never going to be Pete Sampras around the net, but we know what he's capable of inside the service line when his confidence is high. We saw it at the 2005 Wimbledon, where he dug himself out of some difficult situations by coming to net. Last week at Cincinnati, he produced perhaps his best volleying work ever. It wasn't just the solid contact off both sides, but the anticipation. I had never seen Roddick re-position himself like this to cover second and third volleys the way he did in the later stages of the Cincinnati tournament.
This is the best place mentally Roddick has been in for months and he'll take this week off, go to New York and begin his preparation. We won't know the draw for a few days, but, regardless of who he plays, I guarantee there won't be any first-round losses to Gilles Muller or any other non-seeded player.
Another decent article from the NY Sun:
For Roddick, Timing May Be Key to Success
BY TOM PERROTTA
August 21, 2006
This Roddick fellow looks like a good prospect.
After a year of difficult losses, timid play, and increasing questions about his future, Andy Roddick emerged this weekend, winning his first title of the year at the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters in Cincinnati, 6–3, 6–4 over Juan Carlos Ferrero (he also clinched the U.S. Open Series and a chance at a million-dollar bonus at the U.S. Open, which begins next week). The struggling American looked relieved when he dropped to his knees and kissed the court, before embarking on a victory lap of the stadium.
This tournament was a reprise of the 23-year-old American's good old days (that is, one September in 2003), when his serve did most of the work and his forehand and athleticism took care of the rest. Even his final opponent was familiar: Ferrero was the victim when Roddick won his first, and only, major title, at the U.S. Open three years ago.
As poorly as Roddick has played of late, Ferrero has been far worse since that Grand Slam meeting. The Spaniard nearly slipped outside the top 100 in the rankings while struggling with a wrist injury and chicken pox.He has not won a title since 2003, when he briefly took over the no. 1 ranking in the world.
Though Ferrero went on a fine run this week, including victories over James Blake and Rafael Nadal, it turns out that he still cannot return a good serve, as Brad Gilbert, Roddick's former coach, pointed out in 2003.Ferrero often looked clueless yesterday, earning two breaks mostly due to poor execution from Roddick, especially at the net in his first attempt to serve out the match (Roddick finished with 17 aces, including three straight to end the contest).
So how good was Roddick last week, and are we now going to see more positive results from him? In all sports, but especially in an individual sport like tennis, a good performance often leaves one with the impression that a player has cured all of his or her ills. Suddenly, it seems, volleying is easy, down-the-line backhands take less effort, and serves land just so.
In truth, Roddick probably did not play much better last week than he did at other times this year (the final included a number of sloppy points). He did, however, carry himself much better. His attitude was confident. He expected to win. He tried to stay away from long baseline rallies and no longer feared making mistakes. And he ventured to the net time and again, even if his opponent sent a line drive right past him. Roddick will never be known as a superb volleyer, but his reflexes and leaping ability often produce stupendous shots, less so for their grace than the fact that they are effective and clumsy at the same time (maybe this is how Michael Jordan would look at the net).
This version of Roddick, the explosive gambler, is a dangerous player,
provided the draw breaks his way. Cincinnati provided a fine example: He survived a close match against Daniele Bracciali in the first round, and then needed only to defeat Kristof Vliegen, Juan Ignacio Chela, a tired Andy Murray (Murray had upset Federer and said he went into the Roddick match thinking he could not win), and Fernando Gonzalez, who usually returns serves by blocking the ball back into the court, giving Roddick lanes for approach shots and volleys (he lost just three points on his first serve in their semifinal match).
Even against a depleted Murray, Roddick only won 14 of 29 points at the net, a terrible percentage. But he stuck with the plan (if Jimmy Connors has imparted this discipline on Roddick, he's well worth the money). Should Roddick continue this at the U.S.Open, he might easily find himself in the second week, provided that his lingering lower back strain causes no problems.
As his results suffered in recent years, it seemed the world became increasingly fond of the old Roddick. But many of those memories are false. Roddick of 2003 was not a better player than Roddick of 2005 or even Roddick in many weeks of 2006, and the 2005 Wimbledon final against Roger Federer remains Roddick's best performance on a tennis court, despite the fact that Federer drubbed him.
In tennis, timing counts for a lot, and Roddick's was impeccable in Flushing in 2003. He played only three players ranked inside the top 15 in that tournament: Sjeng Schalken, David Nalbandian, and Ferrero. Schalken had the worst serve on the tour, Nalbandian had a twosets-to-love lead in the semifinals before he injured himself, and Ferrero had expended a lot of energy in long rallies against Andre Agassi in the semifinals (and don't forget Gilbert's remarks about his return game). Roddick might have lost in the second round that year, to Ivan Ljubicic, but Ljubicic was not quite the player then that he is now, and he suffered a meltdown after several calls that he deemed unfavorable (Roddick won in four sets, two of them tiebreakers, including 12–10 in the fourth set).
Considering recent poor performances from men like Nalbandian, Marcos Baghdatis, Ljubicic, Blake, and even Nadal, Roddick's timing for 2006 might be just as good. The United States Tennis Association announces the U.S. Open draw on Wednesday. Much to everyone's surprise, Roddick might end up as a real contender.
And one more excited Roddick watcher, Jim Courier
Aug. 20, 2006, 11:14PM
Connors gives Roddick a boost
New partnership produces an end to victory drought
By DALE ROBERTSON
Despite much widespread skepticism — I've certainly expressed my share — Jim Courier already was insisting on Friday that Andy Roddick's decision to partner up with Jimmy Connors had had a profoundly positive effect on Roddick's game.
And lo, three days later, Roddick won his first title in 10 months, taking the Masters Series event in Cincinnati and, with it, the U.S. Open Series championship. Roddick had reached his first final of the year a few weeks ago in Indianapolis.
Connors, 54 next month, may be out of touch with the modern tour and its players, but what Jimbo did best in his prime, accounting for his eight Grand Slam titles, apparently translates into any era, and Roddick seems to be soaking up his advice like a sponge.
"I haven't been around them personally," Courier said, "but (watching on TV), I saw a clear, distinct change in Andy's game — things I've never seen him do, but things he needed to do."
Courier, the winner of four Slams himself in the 1990s, was so excited by what he was seeing early in the Cincinnati tournament that he dashed off a congratulatory e-mail to Roddick.
"I told him, 'I'm really excited for you — you're going where you need to be going,' " Courier said.
What really caught his eye? Roddick's vastly improved shot anticipation and footwork, as well as his refound swagger.
"Andy was walking and moving like a man who believed in his game again, and that was great to see," Courier said. "I think good things are on the horizon for him, whether or not it plays out this week or at the U.S. Open. He's got the weapons, and now he's looking like he'll be able to use them in the right way."
Roddick winning with new style
His game is more than a big serve
BY DUSTIN DOW
ENQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Aug 20, 2006
MASON - Redemption is a slow process. But for Andy Roddick, it's getting sweeter by the victory.
"I don't know if I think about the year as a whole now, to be honest," Roddick said Saturday following his 6-3, 6-3 semifinal victory against Fernando Gonzalez in the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters. "I didn't play well through a good portion of it and through three majors. Right now, I'm just trying to play well and get better."
The 2005 season elapsed without Roddick winning a Masters Series or Grand Slam title, and so far 2006 has proved to be no different. He not only has failed to catch up to top-ranked Roger Federer but also has been surpassed by Rafael Nadal and others at the top level of the sport.
Still, a Saturday-record 10,718 fans came to the Lindner Family Tennis Center to watch the 12th- ranked Roddick advance to his first Masters Series final since he lost here to Federer last year.
It's been a rejuvenating week for Roddick, who has displayed skills in his return game and net play that he previously had not shown with regularity. Combined with his still-powerful serve, he has become not only as dangerous as he was in 2003 when he won here, but more complete.
Roddick gave some of the credit for his transformation to daily telephone conversations he has with his new coach, former American great Jimmy Connors.
"He said, 'More importantly than winning or losing, you're playing the right way ...' " Roddick said. "He's excited because of things that we've worked on; I've gone out and not been scared to try and apply them in situations like this."
Gonzalez recognized that Roddick played with more effectiveness than usual on his return game but said a familiar feature allowed him to dominate the match.
"I mean, he does everything with his serve," Gonzalez said. "When we play the baseline points, I feel I can win most of the points. But in the second set, he was playing better and better because if you know that you're going to win your serve, you can make other plays."
Roddick today will try to become the first No. 9 seed in the history of the tournament to win the championship. He'll face Juan Carlos Ferrero in a rematch of the 2003 U.S. Open final won by Roddick.
After winning his semifinal match Saturday, Ferrero said he'd prefer to play Roddick rather than Gonzalez in the final despite having an 0-2 lifetime record against Roddick, including a loss here last year in the second round.
"I know Roddick," Ferrero said. "He has a very good serve and everything, but you know, the two times I played against him and I lost, I think I had chances to have a win."