After posting my recent poll asking readers who they thought needed to win the women’s event at Indian Wells based on the opportunity there (the leading choice was Jelena Jankovic), the blog Tennis Talk, Anyone rightly pointed out that on the men’s side of the draw, no one needed a title win at Indian Wells more so than Andy Roddick.
Some might have given the American a chance to reach the finals but I doubt few would have given veteran Ivan Ljubicic any shot to get there. But with Ljubicic’s impressive win over Rafael Nadal today in the semifinals, it sets an intriguing matchup between two players who many had written off.
Ljubicic’s run at Indian Wells has been the story of the event simply because at 31 (he just celebrated his birthday this week) many had thought his best tennis was behind him. Reaching No.3 in the world back in 2006, injuries and just the march of time saw the talented Croat fall to No. 66 by July of 2009. But a good run in the fall saw him back in the top 25 again. His win over a tired Novak Djokovic at Indian Wells was a given for some, but to see him battle back against Juan Monaco and then Rafael Nadal shows how much training he’s put in to get himself back into the top tier again. Whether he has enough left for tomorrow is another story.
Andy Roddick came into Indian Wells a bit of a question mark. Although he won Brisbane and got to the finals of San Jose last month, his lingering shoulder issue was still a concern. The other concern was how would he deal with Roger Federer as a potential quarterfinal opponent. But Roddick’s draw opened up like a dream as Gael Monfils lost early, then the loss of Federer to Marcos Baghdatis. The only obstacle was Robin Soderling and Roddick’s own poor record against top ten players. Roddick’s win over Soderling is a much needed confidence boost for the rest of the year. But a win at Indian Wells would be even more so.
So who do you root for? The sentimental favorite Ljubicic who’s never won a Master’s event in three previous tries, and let’s face it, this could be his best and only chance? Or, the American, in the hopes the confidence boost of a title will carry him to bigger things in 2010. That I’ll leave up to you. As to who will win, Roddick goes into this match with a 7-3 record. But their last meeting was three years ago at Indian Wells in the quarterfinals which Roddick won in two tiebreaks.
Ljubicic will have to serve big and go for it like he did against Nadal. He may not feel as pressured on his serve but his ability to break Roddick’s serve will be the key. If it gets into tiebreaks again, that, and the vocal American crowd could just be enough to carry Roddick to victory. But as we’ve seen throughout this event, to count Ljubicic out would be a fool’s bet.