After losing the first set to Rafael Nadal in their semifinal encounter at the Sony Ericsson Open, Andy Roddick seemed unable to find a way into the Nadal service games or hang with the Spaniard on the baseline. While watching it, I wondered where was Andy’s once famous forehand since he didn’t seem to have any other weapons, besides his serve, to use.
But it was Roddick’s focus and change of game plan late in the second set that allowed him to completely change not only the match, but perhaps, the course of the rest of the ATP tour for 2010 as he took out Nadal 4-6, 6-3, 6-3.
Roddick stayed close with Nadal early in the first set, but a quick break by the Spaniard allowed him to serve it out at 6-4. Things stayed on serve in the second but Roddick had no luck trying to outhit Nadal. Instead, Roddick started to mix it up by serving and volleying and also attacking Nadal’s forehand especially up the middle of the court. But it was Roddick’s forehand that became the factor as he started to crush it rather than settle for keeping it in play. That change in tactics allowed Roddick to run off 11 straight points to win the second set 6-3. Later Roddick, commented on his change in tactics.
“Anytime we got neutral [in the point]l he was pushing me around,” Roddick said. “I knew I had to be more aggressive. My heavy forehand doesn’t work against him, so I had to hit it flatter, which is higher risk.”
Roddick kept up the attack while Nadal started to play passive tennis as if waiting for Roddick to miss. Roddick, who had 37 winners versus 25 for Nadal, again broke for 2-1 and during the changeover Nadal was visibly angry at himself. Despite getting a chance at Roddick’s serve in the 4-3 game when it went to several deuces, Roddick finally held for 5-3. By then, Nadal was done as he hit several backhands into the net giving Roddick match point which the American converted when Nadal hit a forehand well long.
This is the second time in as many weeks where Nadal has been the best player on form in an event but seemingly finds ways to play passive tennis in tense matches, the first case being his loss to Ivan Ljubicic at Indian Wells where Nadal was also up a set in that match.
For Roddick meanwhile, who finds himself in his second straight Masters finals, he’s definitely the player of the moment with the best win/loss record on tour this year at 21-4. But no matter what happens now, it’s safe to say Andy Roddick is the player to watch for 2010.