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HindustanTimes Mon,21 Apr 2014

Tennis

Hot property Roddick ready to handle pressure
Reuters, PTI
New York, August 19, 2003
First Published: 11:25 IST(19/8/2003)
Last Updated: 11:25 IST(19/8/2003)

A thunderbolt serve, a peerless recent record and a celebrity girlfriend have turned Andy Roddick into the hottest property in American tennis.

Yet the world number four still requires a grand slam title to become the 'complete package'.

It sounds almost churlish to suggest this, but can the 'A-Rod' handle the pressure?

A win-loss record of 30-2 since the French Open, and a 20-1 return on north American hardcourts this summer, would indicate the question should remain strictly rhetorical.

His partnership with coach Brad Gilbert, not to mention a high-profile relationship with singer and actress Mandy Moore, has seen Roddick blossom from a reckless dynamo into a mature, 20-year-old contender.

His serve of 149 mph earlier this season equalled the world record speed, while he carries himself with great confidence and now understands how to manipulate different situations on court to his advantage.

He has scooped three titles in his last four tournaments, including back-to-back Masters Series crowns at Montreal and Cincinnati.

GLORIOUS MANTLE

Moreover, he has the backing of many American fans who are eager for Roddick to assume the glorious mantle held by Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi down the years.

Yet being the overwhelming favourite for a tournament such as the U.S. Open does not sit comfortably with everyone.

Roddick's temperament has improved significantly, but it remains untested at the end of a tight five-setter in a cauldron like Flushing Meadows.

So, too, has his ability to 'go the distance' at a grand slam event . At the Australian Open and Wimbledon this year, he fell at the most agonising stage of all -- the semi-finals.

How will those memories play on his mind in New York?

"I prefer to look forward," he says. "I'm also not into 'ifs' and 'buts'...I'd like to think I've improved as a player since the Australian Open, and even since March this year.

"I'm playing with confidence...I feel as though when I walk on court I will win. Hopefully it will continue.

"Obviously, I'm happy for the summer I've had so far, but now I need to regroup, calm down and get ready for a whole new tournament."

BEST TENNIS

It is true he has improved, in every department. Even his formidable serve has got better for he now mixes up the delivery. This weapon will be key in determining his progress at the Open.

But there is a lingering suspicion about his ability to rise to the ultimate occasion, to produce his best tennis when there is no room for error.

Australian Lleyton Hewitt, who has triumphed at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, is yet to reach a final at his home grand slam event in Melbourne Park. The focus on him every year in his own country is huge and it has undermined all his efforts.

A similar plague could afflict Roddick in New York this year.

He turns 21 on the middle Saturday and has already said he is ready to come of age with his first grand slam title, but if the return games of main rivals Andre Agassi and Roger Federer are in working order, he may have to wait a little longer.


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