August 8, 2009

From South Americans to All-American

There was more than a difference in hemispheres separating the two semifinal matches in D.C. tonight.

While Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro and Chilean Fernando Gonzalez were stymied by sweltering heat which both players admitted hampered their game, compatriots Andy Roddick and John Isner were blessed with much milder temperatures. The on-court action was similarly disparate, with both players exhibiting moments of greatness and pulling off some shots that sent the crowd wild.

As I discussed earlier today, these uber tall guys like Isner have a distinct advantage when it comes to their serve, and in tonight's match the twenty-four year old did not disappoint. He served an impressive twenty aces, clocking some in well over 130 miles per hour, and looked solid in the first set tiebreak, which he won at 7-3.

But Roddick is nothing if not a competitor. If he learned anything from that classic Wimbledon final last month, it was that anyone can launch a comeback. Not surprisingly he was even stronger on serve than John, winning eighty-nine percent of his first serves and only allowing fourteen points to his opponent. Andy rebounded from the tiebreak and opened the second set by breaking Isner, the first time either player had conceded a game, and bounded onto the court after the changeover. With that you knew he was back in the game. He broke again at 4-2 in the second and won the set in half the time it took John to win the first.

Both players began the deciding set in spectacular fashion. Roddick got a couple of break chances early, but they remained on serve until the eleventh game when he broke John at fifteen. He won the next four points easily, and after more than two and a half hours he earned his fourth final in Washington.

He's never lost the championship match.

Even still he's got a tough match tomorrow -- Juan Martin did beat Roddick in L.A. last year, their only career meeting, and after two straight evening matches, playing in the high sun could be a scorcher for Andy. In his press conference after the win he admitted it would be difficult, but had some thoughts on what he had to do:

"He was just playing a lot better than me last year at this time -- there's no way around it. I was struggling to find form, dealing with injuries, and he was on a four tournament winning streak, so I certainly didn't go in there thinking I was favored by any means...It'll be tough tomorrow, you never know what you're going to get from him. He plays at a high level every day and that's why he's number six in the world. That's why he's been in the top five for the majority of the past year. He hits the ball well through the court. I'm gonna have to hit the ball pretty well from the baseline and make the adjustment from night tennis to day tennis. It always reacts a bit differently, so I'm going to have to try to get a pretty good grip on that early."

And you have to like his chances. The way he's been playing all week -- heck, all year! -- he's certainly proven himself, even switching ranking positions with DelPo after Wimbledon. A win in D.C. would put him at the top of the U.S. Open Series standings and give him some great momentum going into the final Grand Slam of the year.

And I'll be rooting for him all the way!

No comments: