Sorry, Andy, for giving you only a (small) – yes, in parentheses – chance to beat Rafael Nadal in the semis of Miami today. Just think of it as a good old fashioned reverse jinx.
Roddick played a terrific set and a half of tennis on Friday afternoon to beat Nadal 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 at the Sony Ericsson Open. He admitted to feeling at times like he was “driving into head on traffic” and “rolling the dice,” but said that risky moves like coming in on serves and taking big cuts at forehands were necessary to win against Rafa. Here’s how Andy summarized his game plan in his post match presser:
“I have been playing well over the last month. So going into the match, we said, Well, let’s go with what you’ve been doing. Let’s not come out and be desperate right away. So I waited a little bit to be desperate.” (Smiling.)
It was interesting to hear him say it, because I didn’t get that sense of desperation watching him play. Roddick looked pretty poised and calculating to me. I know it doesn’t make sense to say that rushing the net and using his second serve as an approach shot looked patient, but I was impressed by Roddick’s ability to work out his strategy on court. He didn’t panic when Rafa came out swinging. It was Rafa who got a little frazzled out there.
More from Roddick’s game plan:
“My comfort zone of moving the ball around and maybe chip ping it around a little bit doesn’t work against Rafa. I had to try to come up with something that at least took him out of his comfort zone a little bit, and it paid off.”
Cha-ching! It most certainly did.
Okay, Rafa Watchers, what’s up with the raging bull?
Rafa had a surprising outburst of self-violence on court, pounding at his quad with his fist during a third set changeover and jawing at his box about something. You can see it at around the 5:25 mark in this video:
Was it pure frustration? Something physical? A bit of masochistic motivation? Uncle Toni’s said that Rafa can be highly self critical and he’s been known to punish himself for bad play by, say, killing himself on an elliptical machine right after a match. But you rarely see that side of him on the court. Is this behavior the equivalent of Roger’s famous racquet smash in last year’s semis? Or is it something else entirely?
Rafa kept it positive in his press conference:
“You know, two semifinals in a row, first two Masters 1000 of the season for me is positive. Positive American hardcourt season, first part. So, yeah, happy for that. I am playing well. I had very good matches in these two tournaments. That’s the positive things. Worst thing I lost two semifinals in three sets. That’s it.”
And unlike Roger, Rafa insists that he isn’t craving the comforts of clay:
Q. Are you happy to be getting back on the clay?
RAFAEL NADAL: No, no. I am feeling really well playing in all the surfaces, and I hope the clay help me a little bit more. But I am happy for everything.
Speaking of clay, what a shame the red stuff has to put Roddick’s winning ways on hold for the next couple months. Oops, there I go, again, underestimating Andy Roddick! Hey, maybe he’ll prove me wrong.
Roddick plays the winner of Berdych vs. Soderling in Sunday’s final. He’s also still committed to playing in Saturday evening’s “Champions for Chile” event with Fernando Gonzalez, Gustavo Kuerten and Jim Courier.