The Federer-Roddick rivalry is no longer a myth. It truly exists and was on full display this evening at the Sony Ericsson Open as Roger Federer and Andy Roddick battled for a spot in the fourth round. Gone are the days of these two players meeting each other in Grand Slam finals, but the electrifying atmosphere still livened up the stadium as Roddick prevailed over Federer, 7-6(4), 1-6, 6-4 in what was a match for the history books.
“This is why you play,” stated Roddick during his on-court interview, encapsulating the exact thoughts of all those witnessing the American’s breakthrough. During his resurgence tonight, it was easy to forget that Roddick had a 2-21 losing record to the Swiss. However, this evening we witnessed a vintage Roddick who came out of the woodwork to stun and amaze both the audience and Federer.
The first set saw Roddick take surprising command as he eventually won in a tiebreak, 7-6(4). Roddick’s serve was on point, winning 83% of first serves while Federer struggled with his backhand returns often sending them long.
At the start of the second set, the crowd was surprisingly pro-Federer – if only to extend the match to three sets, but it seemed to negatively influence Roddick. He tightened up as his backhand began to leave him, and his serve faltered on several key points. He instigated the backhand slice instead, and Federer pounced on him any opportunity he got. Federer quickly broke him twice to go up 5-1, with Roddick serving to stay in the set. A perfect setup by Federer to push Roddick into “no man’s land,” gave the Swiss the open deuce court to strike a winner and take the second set, 6-1.
In his post-match press conference, Roddick was cheerful and talkative, admitting that he “didn’t feel like I played terrible [in the second set]. I mean, I didn’t play that bad … You know when he gets that lead he’s like a runaway freight train. That’s not really what you want to see.”
As any Roddick fan knows, momentum changes with the American are common and the third set started off rocky. Roddick bullied himself more than his opponent and barely held his opening service game. Deflated and grunting at himself, Roddick became a mere silhouette of the player he was at the start of the match. With this, the crowd shifted allegiance and turned pro-Roddick creating a near instantaneous transformation in Roddick’s game plan, with him sliding, attacking and pegging the ball deep into the court, breaking Federer for the first time of the evening to go up, 2-1.
“It was kind of a game of chess,” Roddick said. “I stayed back on the returns [initially], which is something I have not done with him often early on. I think he might have been a little bit surprised by it.
He made the adjustment like he does because he’s Roger. [He] started coming in a lot and putting the pressure on me, and it was down 6‑1 in the second and Love‑40 early in the third. It was apparent that that wasn’t going to work much longer.
So I said, ‘Well, all right. Let’s kinda go over‑the‑top aggressive.’ I was able to get out of that game and play that really good game to break, and then my serve held up from there.”
Reenergized and with a bit of luck on his side, Roddick’s forehands began painting the lines for winners. Federer meanwhile, now clearly frustrated, altered his approach and channeled his energy to take the next game at love.
Two aces to go up 4-2 in the third gave Roddick the slight cushion he needed. As Federer attempted to stay inside the baseline taking balls on the early rise, Roddick hit deep into the back court to force his opponent into errors. Both players were on fire as the deciding set progressed, and the final games of the match would be a highlight for any tennis fan to witness live.
Three service winners in a row on the deuce side and a final ace gave Roddick a boost to go up 5-3. With Federer now serving, Roddick began running down every ball but wasn’t able to capitalize and break. Whether you were a Federer or Roddick fan, there was not a person in the stadium without adrenaline rushing through their veins. 5-4 Roddick. An ace followed by two service winners gave Roddick the match and the stadium erupted into cheers.
As Roddick shook hands with Federer and sat down at his bench, he was bent over seemingly overcome with emotion. Afterall, this was only the third time in eleven years that he had beaten Federer and it was a moment to savor.
Federer spoke with the media, praising Roddick and what he has done for American tennis, lest fans forget.
“He’s still very good. I hope you guys give him more credit than he’s getting at the moment. I’m happy to see him play really well. He’s a great champion, and enjoy him while you have him. It was a great night for him and America’s tennis.”
Given a match of this caliber and the player Roddick showed the world tonight, it’s safe to say all those retirement rumors can be put to rest – at least for a while.
“There is no script in sports,” commented Roddick. “I think that’s what makes it the best entertainment in the world… You don’t know what’s gonna happen. Nights like tonight are why you play the matches…
It would be a little presumptuous to go from people retiring me, to all of a sudden talking about winning a Masters event. You know, let’s take it for what it’s worth. It probably wasn’t as bad as it seemed two weeks ago, and it’s probably not all the way turned around because of one match.”