August 8, 2009

Attack of the 50-Foot Men

Okay, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, but as I watched the first set of semifinals at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic in D.C. today it became abundantly clear just how much of an advantage height is in tennis.

Last night after Andy Roddick defeated the 6'10" Ivo Karlovic, he reminisced about the days when he was considered one of the big guys. He won't get any relief today -- opponent John Isner is only an inch shorter than Doctor Ivo, and if he makes it to the finals, Andy will face defending champion Juan Martin Del Potro, relatively a munchkin at only 6'6".

It's no surprise that the taller you are, the more athletic you can be. You can cover more ground with one stride and have a lot more leverage to fire off a powerful serve -- Karlovic notched forty-five aces in his first three matches this tournament and Isner had only one less through the quarters. Of course a fast serve doesn't make you invincible -- after all, neither of these bullet-throwers has won a single title this year and Ivo infamously served fifty-nine aces in his first round at Roland Garros only to lose the match.

But add a little finesse to your game, and you'll be hard to beat -- Sam Querrey, who's served 574 aces this year (behind only Ivo and Andy) is sitting at a career high #26 ranking on the heels of three consecutive final appearances. And Del Potro capitalized on his strength to win four titles last year, marking wins over David Ferrer and Roddick on his way to the top ten.

Today in the D.C. semis, he faced Fernando Gonzalez, a man he surprisingly had never beaten before. Then again, they haven't met since DelPo cracked the top fifty. Though Juan Martin was somewhat sloppy in the first set, once he won the tiebreak he was in top form. He rolled to a quick 5-0 lead in the second and stumbled only slightly before taking the match, 6-3. He wasn't perfect by any means -- though he served ten aces to Gonzo's five, DelPo didn't even get half of his first attempts in and won only sixty-three percent of his serves in total. Nevertheless, it was all he needed to make his seventh career final.

So as I anxiously await tonight's second semifinal match I wonder if Andy Roddick will be able to take down not one or two, but three giants in one blow. It'll be a task, but watching his match last night gives me hope that he'll be able to pull it off.

Whatever the outcome though, you know it will be one fun championship to watch!

No comments: