Pat Coaches Andy and Federer Muddles Through

Andy Roddick advances to the semifinals and Roger Federer stays alive in Shanghai.

If you look at the photo above, you see eight terracotta warriors. These are the professional tennis player warriors, not the terracotta army that was buried with the Emperor of Qin in 210-209 B.C. Clearly the Emperor planned to rule the hereafter much as he ruled in his earthly life and for that he needed his army.

At the time this photo was taken, only Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal had qualified for the year end championships in Shanghai. Now that two rounds of play are complete, Djokovic is out of contention and Federer and Nadal both have 1-1 records. The headless warriors have taken over.

Pat the Coach

My co-writer Pat Davis laid out Andy Roddick’s strategy for his match with Fernando Gonzalez today. Did Andy listen to her? Let’s see.

Here’s what Pat told Andy to do.

Gonzo is really feeling his oats since he beat Roger Federer in his first round robin match. Therefore, it’s very important to climb on him early in the point.

Andy not only climbed on Gonzo early in the point, he got out to an early lead. He broke Gonzo in his first service game and his second service game to go up 5-0 in the first set. Andy also went up a break early in the second set and that break was enough to win the set. He won the match, 6-1, 6-4.

Gonzo had to play brilliantly to beat Federer. Put so much pressure on him that he’ll have to play brilliantly to beat you too. Attack him and beat him to the net.

Andy got his first break point at the net – on Gonzo’s 1st service game no less.

On the next point, Andy went up 2-0 with a running forehand passing shot as Gonzo slipped to the court. A few points later, Gonzo fell down. He’d guessed one way and the ball went the other but instead of planting his foot and taking off in the opposite direction, he flailed his arms in a futile attempt to keep his balance. Clearly Gonzo was feeling the pressure.

As Andy’s brother John Roddick said, “I just like how he’s being very aggressive but he’s also up on the baseline so he’s really pushing Fernando around.”

Give Gonzo a change of pace now and then.

At 1-1 in the second set, Gonzo was running Andy around so Andy threw in a few backhand slices and followed them up with a beautiful running passing shot. An error by Gonzo on the next point and Andy had 3 break points. One more Gonzo error and Andy went up a break and that was all he needed to win the second set.

And of course, serve your ass off!

Andy hit an ace to go up 5-0 in first set, hit an ace and two winners while serving for the match, and did not face a break point.

Andy’s return of serve was an added bonus. Gonzo didn’t win a point on his second serve till the sixth game of the match and that was the only point he won on his second serve in the first set. As Roddick said: “I returned pretty well. I only remember missing a couple of returns all night, even off first serves.”

Pat, if Jimmy Connors gets tired of traipsing around the world trying to convince Andy to stay up on the baseline, I’ll send this column in as your application for Connors’ job. You have my full support for the position.

Federer Muddles Through

Andy plays Federer on Friday in his last round robin match. I’d be shocked if Federer didn’t beat Andy and here’s why: it’s a dead rubber. The match doesn’t mean anything to Andy because he’s already qualified for the semifinals.

Unless you’re a highly unusual individual, the fact that you’ve already qualified has to seep into your brain. Let’s say you’re facing three break points on your serve. You can’t help but say to yourself: “Well, at least I’m into the semifinals. If I lose this point, no biggie, I’ll still play another day.”

Federer, on the other hand, has to win more sets than Gonzo to advance and he’s currently only one set ahead of him. That makes for a huge difference in motivation.

Federer beat Nikolay Davydenko today by the score of 6-4, 6-3, but the score is a bit misleading. Federer had 38 unforced errors in the match. What is happening to him? Is he falling apart or is everyone else catching up? What do you think?

Not only that but Federer has been losing his cool. After he lost the second set tiebreaker to Gonzo yesterday, he chewed out the chair umpire. I’m not exactly sure what happened but Federer could have been annoyed that the chair umpire didn’t see him motion for a challenge.

Whatever it was, Federer accused the chair umpire of making him “look like an idiot.” The umpire’s response was unsatisfactory because Federer followed that up with: “don’t give me that shit.” Hmmm, can we say misplaced anger?

Davydenko is not a particularly challenging opponent this week. The ATP recently interviewed his brother and his wife as part of the investigation into a possible fixed match between Davydenko and Martin Vassallo-Arguello in August.

The investigation has uncovered a group of nine Russian gamblers who placed $1.6 million in bets on the August match. The ATP investigators have also requested phone records from all phones that Davydenko uses to see if they can connect him to any of those gamblers.

Davydenko’s lawyer says the poor guy “is showing the classic signs of depression,” and who can blame him. I’d be depressed too.

In light of that and Federer’s loss to Gonzo, I would say that even if Federer gets to the semifinals, David Ferrer has a very good chance of beating him should they meet. Wouldn’t that be something?

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