Andy Roddick put tour rookie Kei Nishikori in his place Thursday night at the SAP Open in San Jose with a snarling, glaring, obscenity-ridden 6-2, 6-4 victory.
All business on court against the Japanese rookie, who last week captured the ATP Delray Beach title, Roddick appeared agitated throughout the match. Taking a page out of coach Jimmy Connors’ playbook, Roddick snapped at the chair umpire, linespeople, and at Nishikori when a volley exchange at the net came directly at Roddick.
“Back off that (blank)!” Roddick shouted across the net at Nishikori, clearly looking to mentally unnerve the 18-year-old who trains at the IMG/Bollettieri Academy in Florida.
“Tonight, I just needed to make my presence felt a little,” Roddick said after the match. “Make him think about something other than how well he’s been playing.”
Did the plan to bully his way inside his teenage opponent’s head come from coach Connors?
“I’ve been a brat for a long time,” Roddick said. “This isn’t something that came along in the last year and a half with Jimmy.”
And on Nishikori going too near him with a volley?
“If he feels that’s the best play, I have absolutely no problem with it,” Roddick said. “I just told him to stick it to me next time, take some skin.”
Roddick took a 3-0 lead in the first set, and in the seventh game let loose on Nishikori after the exchange at the net.
“I didn’t understand a word he said,” Nishikori said. But when the Japanese was repeatedly asked by the media, he acknowledged he did understand but didn’t want to repeat the obscenity.
Roddick admitted he was a bit nervous facing the hot-handed teen, apparent in his fidgeting and grumpiness throughout the match.
“I was a little tight coming into the match…I was going to try to use everything to try to get a win out there,” Roddick said. “But I’m very impressed with him.”
The former No. 1 and top-ranked American put in a similar display last year in the Washington final when meeting a streaking John Isner for the first time. Roddick summed up the encounter with Nishikori by saying business is business.
“There was nothing personal in it,” Roddick said. “He’s probably not that happy with me for doing that. But I don’t need any young friends.”
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