Maybe it was a dream I had last night, but I swear during his win over Ivan Ljubicic yesterday at Indian Wells, Andy Roddick stole a few pages right out of the Roger Federer playbook!
From what I saw, Roddick carbon copied the Federer short backhand slice into the ad court (the “chip and dip”), which is meant to lure the opponent in forcing him to make an exceptional reply or get passed.
Roddick used that Fed tactic twice against Ljubicic in the second set tiebreak with remarkable success. The first time off it Ljubicic tried to reply down the line to Roddick’s forehand, but the shot wasn’t deep enough and Andy torched a forehand crosser (okay, I think it skipped over the net). The second time, Ljubicic replied with a deft cross court angle drop shot which Roddick tracked and steered down the line for a winner.
(I still wonder, “Did I really see those two shots?”)
So I got to give Roddick a lot of credit for incorporating that one into the game plan, and for pulling out the win. It’s a great shot – one that Federer has used against Roddick at will – and Andy pulled it off masterfully last night.
And it’s really the first time I’ve seen someone outside of Federer use the chip and dip with such purpose, which is quite surprising since so many players nowadays want nothing to do with coming into the net.
But when used and used effectively, the chip and dip, much like a drop shot, is a terrific tactic against baseliners: It takes away their rhythm, it takes them out of their baseline comfort zone and it throws in an element of surprise.
And no doubt Roddick learned this tactic from all the beatings Federer’s given him. Roger loves hitting the short slice to Andy’s backhand, almost teasing him to come in. Andy usually replies with a weak slice cross court to Fed’s backhand which Fed, with the court wide open and Andy cemented at the net, simply lasers down the line for a winner, or if he’s feeling rather cruel he will go back cross court with the backhand topspin angle dipper.
My thinking is is that Roddick or anyone else having to face that shot, Ljubicic included, would be best served just hitting a drop shot into the deuce court. Or, maybe hitting a deep slice right back at your opponent. That is if you can’t hit an outright winner off of it.
In his next match against Rafael Nadal, Roddick will have to be cautious about using that tactic because Rafa will reply with his own dropper or a forehand winner. And my guess is it will be a more difficult shot to pull off since Rafa’s far quicker than Ljubicic and his heavy forehand topspin will be tougher for Andy to control with a backhand slice. Plus, against a lefty like Nadal that shot goes right into the forehand.
Regardless of whether he employs the chip and dip (he probably can’t wait to try it again but really shouldn’t against Rafa), I see Andy winning the match in straight sets. I just think Andy will get more looks on Rafa’s serve than Rafa will on Andy’s – Rafa is not the strongest of returners and Andy’s serve has been untouchable this week. Add to that the fact Rafa is still making a few more errors off the ground than usual and his serve remains a question mark, Roddick should prevail. Actually, Nadal should be hitting nothing but drop shots to Roddick, who’s still about 50/50 at the net at best but seems to be more consistent these days from the baseline.
At the end of the day, though, I still like Tommy Haas taking this title.
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