All credit to Roddick for climbing back to number three after a horrible start last year but how does he move forward now?

My gracious hosts Here at Indian Wells wanted to know what time I would be home for dinner. I told them not to hold dinner for me, there were two men’s semifinals and a women’s final to be played this afternoon and I expected to be at the stadium for a good seven or eight hours.

I was wrong. I could have been home for dinner by six and that is not a good thing.

Earlier this week, Bill Simons of Inside Tennis asked Rafael Nadal an interesting question. He wondered if Nadal was getting too comfortable with his number two ranking. Did he still have a burning desire to be number one? It took a few people to successfully translate the question into Spanish but Nadal finally answered that he was comfortable with number two because he didn’t see an opportunity to be number one but his goal, of course, is to be number one.

Andy Roddick will now have to decide how comfortable he is at number three because he lost badly to Nadal in the first semifinal today, 6-4, 6-3. Roddick is more than a thousand points behind Nadal in the ATP rankings and less than one hundred in front of Nikolay Davydenko so Simon’s question is important because this is competitive sports, if you’re not moving forward then you’re probably slipping backwards.

All credit to Roddick for climbing back to number three after a horrible start last year but how does he move forward now? Some of his problems today were temporary. During the three games he lost his serve, he got a total of three first serves into the court. And some problems need fixing.

I said Roddick would have problems later in the week if he tried to serve and volley because those higher ranked guys hit very good passing shots. But he also had trouble getting to the net because Nadal’s topspin kicked up and kept him behind the baseline. Roddick realizes he has to do something. After the match he said:

I mean, we were talking about it, Jimmy (Connors) and I just now, and we said, you know, we’re going to have to go back and look at this match and really kind of think about what we would try to do a little bit differently.

Nadal said he had his best match of the year today and clearly Roddick did not so the gap isn’t as wide as it looked, but this is the era of the supercoach and I’m looking forward to seeing what Connors comes up with next. After Andy Murray dismantled Tommy Haas in the quarterfinals last night you have to appreciate Murray and his coach Brad Gilbert. We know Gilbert can coach a player to number one, he did it with Andre Agassi, and it’ll be fun to see how Connors deals with the challenge.

Both women’s finalists, Daniela Hantuchova and Svetlana Kuznetsova, suffered from early success. Hantuchova won the title here in 2002 and hadn’t won a tournament since. Kuznetsova won the 2004 US Open and reached a career high number four then had a terrible 2005 before winning Miami and getting to the French Open final last year. She is now back at number four.

This tournament has been a bit of a letdown because Justine Henin and Amelie Mauresmo are not here and Maria Sharapova went out early. Kuznetsova explained it like this: “…Justine, Amelie, they were not here this week. And then, afterwards, other top players that lose early. And, for me, not to make the final would feel very low. At least I made it, you know.” And maybe that was the problem, being satisfied with the final, because she had trouble keeping the ball in the court and she let Hantuchova dictate the match with aggressive play.

And maybe Kuznetsova is too comfortable at number four. Look at this exchange:

Q. Svetlans, does this sort of take …a little bit of pressure off you going into the next week where you’ve got all winners points to defend? [remember, Kuznetsova won the title at Miami last year]Kuznetsova: Yeah, definitely, definitely it’s easier. I mean, you know, otherwise, I always defend all the points, you know. So it’s much easier to me next week.When you win a tournament on the professional tennis tour, you have to come back and win it again next year else your ranking is likely to drop. The pressure only increases, it never really decreases. That’s why very few people are well equipped for this job. Hantuchova got the second title of her career today winning it 6-3, 6-4. Five years after her first title she’s much better prepared for the job.The last match of the day featured the two best young players on the ATP tour: Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic. Murray is ranked number fourteen and Djokovic thirteen. Their games and their temperaments are very different and it should have been fun to see them slug it out on the hard court but it wasn’t.

Murray hurt his ankle and his hip during his win over Tommy Haas in the quarterfinals last night but he played today because he was told he couldn’t hurt himself further. He had second thoughts about it after the match:

I had a bit of an unprofessional decision on my part to have gone on. You know, I guess the older you get, the more you learn that it’s not always about just going.

Murray couldn’t move and that’s the biggest part of his game. Djokovic won the match easily, 6-2, 6-3, and moved himself into the top ten for the first time in his career.

The cafeteria closes during the last game of the last match. After Djokovic won his fourth game in the last set I knew it would be over pretty quickly so I took off to get my dinner much earlier than I thought I would.

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