The set was a 6-0 shellacking that was worse than the score looked.

In the The New Yorker last week there was an article about color consultant Leslie Harrington. She helps companies choose the current popular color for such products as furniture, appliances, and clothing. She belongs to the Color Marketing Group which meets twice a year to predict the upcoming season’s favorite colors. The candidates for 2008 include a brownish orange called Abodaba, a warm earth tone called Brokeback Bronze and Forbidden Plum, which I assume is a dark purplish reddish color and would be my choice for next season’s hottest gothic lipstick if such a thing existed.

According to the article, wasabi – a yellow green – has been the biggest color for the past five years. That probably explains all of those Nike green and yellow outfits at this year’s Australian Open. Rafael Nadal was wearing shiny green pirate pants and a yellow shirt before Fernando Gonzalez took him out in straight sets in the quarterfinals and Serena Williams has rolled into the final – yes the final, against one Maria Sharapova – in a resplendent green dress with yellow straps.

I don’t really care about fashion that much, it’s just that I’m bored. I’m having trouble getting excited about the matches and who can blame me. I was very excited about the semifinal match between Andy Roddick and Roger Federer. Roddick got a set off Federer at the U.S. Open last year, he had three match points on him in round robin play at the Tennis Masters Cup, and he finally beat him at Kooyong two weeks ago. Roddick looked like he was ready to step in for Nadal and hold up the Federer rivalry until the clay court season rolls around.

Alas, it was over not long after it began. In case you don’t hang out in sushi restaurants, wasabi is a very hot, spicy root known as Japanese horseradish and could well apply to Federer at the moment. He hasn’t lost a set here and today’s performance looked a lot like the double bagel he laid on Lleyton Hewitt at the 2004 U.S. Open final.

Serving in the first game of the match, Roddick hit an inside/out forehand and came to the net. Just as quickly, Federer hit a winner down the line and that was that, he had his first break point and, one point later, the break of serve. Federer picks your weaknesses apart and while it’s critical that Roddick attack the net, he’s not the best mover and in the time it took Roddick to run around his forehand and get to the net, Federer had passed him.

Federer made some errors early in the first set but still managed to break Roddick again and won the set 6-4. Then he started hitting completely ridiculous shots.

In the third game in the second set, Roddick hit a good serve wide then came in and whacked a forehand as hard as he could. On the dead run, Federer overran the ball slightly and casually flicked a backhand for a cross court winner. No smile, no nothing, just a quick shake of his racket. The set was a 6-0 shellacking that was worse than the score looked. Roddick won exactly six points.

It wasn’t that Roddick played so badly, he threw in some serves in the 140’s and kept attacking and I never saw him give up, it’s just that the passing shots kept flying past his ears and Federer hit everything exactly where he wanted the it to go.

Federer’s calmness is mirrored by his coach, Tony Roche, who sits in the stands calmly. Andy Murray talks to himself while looking at his coach, the talkative Brad Gilbert. Roddick is excitable and so is his coach. Jimmy Connors leans over the railing and pumps his fist or points his finger urging Roddick to take it to his opponent right now, dammit! And here we come to a major theme on the ATP for the last year: high profile coaches.

Fernando Gonzalez is tearing up this tournament and he’s been playing with exceptional consistency since he started working with Larry Stefanki in May of last year. In today’s New York Times, Stefanki described Gonzalez’ decision to hire a coach: “Fernando had a mirror moment. At age 25, he decided he wanted to do something more, that what he had was not enough.” If Gonzalez had a mirror moment, so did a lot of other players and in the mirror they saw Federer. What did they have to do to have a chance at beating him? They had to hire a coach who’d either won a few slams or had coached a player to slam wins (Stefanki used to coach John McEnroe) and they had to learn to love the net. No one is going to beat Federer standing on the baseline, at least not on anything but clay.

Gonzalez and Tommy Haas will meet in the other semifinal. Haas was the only player to push Federer to five sets last year and he also beat Federer at Kooyong last year. Still, I think I agree with Roddick on this one. After Roddick’s drubbing a reporter asked him what chance Haas or Gonzalez has against Federer. His response: “slim.”

Roddick lost eleven straight games before he managed to win a few in the third set of that drubbing. He lost the match, 6-4, 6-0, 6-2. He was on his way to closing the vast divide between his game and Federer’s and now the gap is as wide as ever. What should he do? Lick his wounds and improve his approach shot. Roddick can get away with his short approach against most players but not against Federer.

Still, it’s been a good tournament for Roddick. He played good tough matches against Marat Safin and Mario Ancic and it’s good to see him back in the semis. He should be there often this year.

See also:
Warrior Women: Serena Meets Shahar
2007 Australian Open: Peyton Manning and James Blake
2007 Australian Open: The Americans Are Coming!
The Yanks Step It Up in Melbourne
2007 Australian Open: Loosey Goosey Young And Talented
2007 Australian Open: Rubbermade
The Australian Open: Early Rounds
2007 Australian Open: Second Life

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