Djokovic, Roddick in Tasty Rematch at Australian Open; Federer v. del Potro Also
by Sean Randall | January 26th, 2009, 10:44 pm

The Australian Open quarterfinals begin and even with Andy Murray on a flight back home to Great Britain, the men’s field is still absolutely loaded with seven of the Top 8 seeds. In about an hour we get Andy Roddick and Novak Djokovic in a match I’ve been waiting for since their US Open meeting last September. Then, early morning my time it’s 3-time champ Roger Federer trying to fend off the fast-rising Juan Martin Del Potro.

There are also a couple QF women’s matches weaved in there also (Vera Zvonareva is en route to victory), but no offense to WTA fans, the men have the stage today.

First we get Roddick and Djokovic. We all remember how this went down at the Open last year. Roddick made some snide remarks/jokes about Novak’s injuries and reputation in the press. Novak didn’t take kindly to Andy’s words and promptly took him out in his own backyard. But then in his infamous on-court post-match after the match, Djokovic let loose on the American to a rain of boos.

Now the tasty rematch. Bad blood? Surely. Important match? Of course.

I’ve often talked about statement matches, and for both players this is a statement match. With the arrival of Murray, Novak’s got to be feeling slighted in the No. 1 conversation and in Australian Open title picture despite his impressive resume. Roddick, meanwhile, would love to get revenge on Novak for the US Open and also get back into that top player conversation.

So who’ll win? Well, just as he was at the US Open Novak’s the better player than Andy in just about every department except serve. But if you’ve been watching the tournament here in the U.S. as I have it’s tough to steer clear of the Roddick hype. We hear he’s slimmer, he’s playing well, he does well in odd years and his new coach, Larry Stefanki, has a strong pedigree of success in Australia. Plus, we’ll hear that Novak’s late finish the other night doesn’t bode well in the heat of the day, and there’s the issue of that racquet change and the Serb’s sub-par play.

And I agree, Roddick been playing well but I question his opposition thus far, and more importantly his ability to win the big match at a Slam against Top 5 players. And because I think Novak needs this win more than Andy I’m taking the Joker here.

Playing at night should really help out JMDP. Had that match been in the heat of the day I think Federer would win comfortably over the lumbering Argy, but under the lights it should be a tougher challenge for the Swiss. But I still think Federer and his experience win out in a tight affair.

For tomorrow, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is going to have his hands full against the red-hot Fernando Verdasco. If we’ve learned anything about the Australian Open the last ten years it’s that we often get a surprise finalist, and this year Verdasco could very well be that guy. The two have never played before so there will be feeling out by both these guys.

In the second quarterfinal Wednesday, it’s hard to bet against Rafael Nadal at this stage. Gilles Simon will play him tough but he just doesn’t have the fire power necessary to win three sets off Rafa on a slow, hot hard court. Nadal advances.

As for Murray, I guess the pressure caught up with the Brit. As I’ve said before winning in lower ATP events is much different than winning a best-of-five at a Slam, just ask Tomas Berdych. Murray will get his Slam titles in due time, but maybe not this year.

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58 Comments for Djokovic, Roddick in Tasty Rematch at Australian Open; Federer v. del Potro Also

andrea Says:

it’s almost 50 degrees celcius as the match starts…that’s ridiculous. novak seems to wilt in the heat…could be interesting.

MMT Says:

That’s absurd.

RG Says:

Roddick is looking pretty sharp, unlike the slow start at the US Open.

RG Says:

Would the roof be closed? I believe, it is at the discretion of the umpire.

RG Says:

That was a tight first set!

Sean Randall Says:

Novak upped his level in the tiebreak in an otherwise uneventful first set.

MMT Says:

Everyone is telling Roddick to be more aggressive…everyone. I don’t know what he’s waiting for. And it’s so stupid that they’re playing with 130 degrees F – just stupid.

MMT Says:

Man, McEnroe has just completely dimed Roddick out on his latest analysis. Man…

jane Says:

Both are serving really well; as to expected from Andy, and nice to see from Novak, too, who can serve inconsistently.

But yes, it was very tight. Gilbert thinks Roddick should risk errors and go for his shots more. P-Mac thinks it’s court positioning. I wonder what Stefanki’s coaching him? What they should note is that there were only a couple of points separating these two in the first set!

Unfortunately, I can’t watch too closely as my son’s got cold/flu, but I will tape it.

RG Says:

Hi Jane! I was wondering about your absence. Sorry about your son. Hope he feels better soon!

MMT Says:

Looks like Djokovic is wilting.

that_matt Says:

I’d like to see this go 5 sets, in the hot hot hot Australian daytime. Could someone please explain why the commentators say Djokovic is “suffering” in these conditions but Roddick is not? I mean, Roddick is up only one break. Is that “suffering?” Seems to me Djokovic’s demeanor on court always looks like it does at this very moment. I think these commentators are good at making a game of tennis more than just a game, for ratings, other purposes. Or am I missing something?

RG Says:

I agree! The heat seems to have sapped Novak’s energy.

On another note – the organizers should reconsider the start time of the men’s night matches.

Andrew Miller Says:

Attaboy roddick!

Andrew Miller Says:

Djokovic’s backhand IS looking like Agassi’s. a mighty fine shot.

Andrew Miller Says:

And a mighty fine forehand to break Djok.

RG Says:


I agree Djokovic usually does walk around the court breathing heavily between points.

But, in this case, he does not seem to be moving well at all.

RG Says:

What a break by Djokovic!

Andrew Miller Says:

And a mighty fine top spin lob to break Roddick back by Djok.

andrea Says:

trainer? smells like an extended break….

RG Says:

The injury timeout rule always seems a little unfair to the opponent.

Milo Says:

It’s 97 degrees today in Melbourne. But wait, ESPN leaves the thermometer in the direct sunlight and tries to convince me that it’s 130 degrees. Wait, let me go check it on the hood of my car. Wow, its 180 degrees. These tennis players must truly be superheroes!

Kimmi Says:

MMMMMMMMMMM, Roddick !! Here is for the taking.

Sean Randall Says:

Well, this has been disappointing. Even the first set was blah.

Novak needs to get fitter/healthier all the above. Will be an interesting press conference.

jane Says:

Just checked the scoreboard! Whoa. Roddick is cruising once again. Looks like it is his night, and I had a hunch that it would be. I really hope he can get to the final if he wins tonight – and then who knows?

Too bad Novak is crapping out, though. I agree, Sean, that he needs to figure out a way to deal with the elements if he can; maybe he should do some of that hot-yoga or whatever it was that Murray did to toughen him up.

TD, Von, Andrew – you folks must all be proud of your guy tonight; looks like he’s playing very sharply. Maybe Stefanki is the right fit?

Vince, The Shamwow Guy Says:

Wow. Another retirement by Djoker!

Kroll Says:

Now thats just rude…

andrea Says:

jesus. his retirement stats in Grand Slams are embarrassing.

good player but his conditioning is the pits.

Sean Randall Says:

Geez, Novak just went back in the crapper.

And I stayed up for that?

Novak’s got some serious, serious issues.

jane Says:

Congrats to Andy Roddick! As well as to Von, Andrew, TD, and “i like tennis bullies”…plus other ARod fans I can’t think of at the moment.

This is a great result but now go and get to the final Andy!

I am so very disappointed that Djoko retired. Yet I don’t want to see anyone pass out or whatever. Still I wish he’d've played it out. He will be taking a lot of flack for this, which will only hurt in the long run.

Milo Says:

Novak better hope his car never breaks down in Death Valley CA, he’d die of heat stroke in ten minutes.

Milo Says:

Does Novak dye his hair? He reminds me of the pale skin, red hair kid, whose Mom won’t let him go play in the sun.

that_matt Says:

that match straight sucked,

i’m real happy for Andy though, nice to see him get deep into a Major

Lenny Says:

The Djoker retires. WHAT a BIG surprise! * rolleyes *

Sean Randall Says:

If it wasn’t 2am I’d drop a post. Maybe tomorrow.

Kroll Says:

I am sorry but Djoko has no buisness retiring for heat exahaustion. Thats the lamest excuse ever. He’s the defending champion, young and starting his career and he should be among the best prepared to handle the conditions which aren’t exactly a novelty. Not to mention ranking points lost …….

kim Says:

whoo faker is gone!!

bob22 Says:

The Australian Open’s extreme heat policy comes into effect when temperatures exceed 95F and the wet bulb globe temperature — the formula the tournament uses to measure weather conditions – hits 28. At that point, the roof is closed on the two stadium courts and no matches are started on the outside courts.

Why this rule was not followed? In 2007 the matches were cancelled for a whole day but not today. As result defending champion was forced to retire. At that time temperature was exceeding maximum measurement on a thermometer of 6OC! Watching today match and listening a commentator who wrote a book “Wining ugly” is the best description of today’s match!

steve Says:

the rule was not followed because it was not as hot as it was made out to be. the espn temperature blip graphic was showing in the mid 80s, low 90s. somehow their oncourt was showing 130F!!!

can the oncourt temperature really be 40F hotter?

steve Says:

i live in arizona where it reaches 100F and i have played tennis in that heat, but the oncourt is not 130F! that thermometer must be reading the pavement temperature.

Bryan Says:

And he’d got so mad when Roddick joked about his “16 illnesses” last year. And recently said that it’s not right putting Murray besides Nadal and Federer as a favourite to win in Australia. At least Murray fight ’till the end. Guess who’s laughing now?

Esquilax Says:

My Mother and my kid sister where at Rod Laver today. They’re Australians, reasonably used to the heat, and they said you could not sit in the sun. They play in the heat and they said they would not play. There was no breeze at all.

Organisers had the roof partially closed just in case.

Either way you look at it, we were deprived of a better tennis match.

John Says:

very lame though from djokovic. I could understand him wilting after 4 hours at maybe 5-5 in the fifth but not after 1hr 20 when he first started looking shaky. How can a professional athlete be exhausted after just over an hour regardless of the weather? Roddick was running around fine even in the 4th so for Djokovic to be suffering just shows he must lack conditioning. Im sick of the serbian drama queen anyway with his retirements and this is another one to put on the list. Its time he grew up and stopped all the play acting on court.

Al Says:

Unrelated, but can Bud Collins be persuaded to retire? His near-senile non-witticisms and non sequiturs add nothing to these broadcasts (as seen here in the United States).

Milo Says:

Don’t worry. I think Bud is about to retire by natural causes. But the pants will never die!

Voicemale1 Says:

The sad thing is that Djokovic (thanks to his pseudo-publicists in the tennis press) has spent most of the last two years priming himself (and being primed) as The Next World #1 since 2007, yet continually comes up empty when the pressure’s on. He beat his chest and bleated he belonged in the same breath as Federer and Nadal without any of the accomplishments those two were quietly racking up. His own talent has proved to be too inconsistent, and grew more so from 2007 to 2008. Most telling was when he had the opportunities to make true headway in the rankings and on the court, into the place he kept assuring us he belonged. And each time he had to step up, he was sent home by someone else instead.

In Hamburg he had THE chance to take the World #2 Ranking against Nadal in their Semi Final, on a clay court that negated Nadal’s Topspin to the extent Djokovic had his best chance to take Nadal on a clay court. He went up 3-0 in the 1st Set with break points to get the double break edge, and the he lost the set 75, and the match in the 3rd Set. He had another shot at it in the Queen’s Club Final. Again, he was up 3-0 in the 1st, with 5 Break Points for the Double Break, and Nadal beats him back to take the Set 76, and the further crushes Novak’s spirit by winning the last 3 games of the 2nd Set to take the match in straights. Djokovic’s year went downhill and title-less right after that match until Shanghai, albeit when neither Federer nor Nadal were around in the Semis. And at the US Open, he had an opportunity to back up his Final appearance from 2007, but decided he preferred to get exacerbate all the off-court drama with Roddick, which never would serve him well. Listless with understanding he turned an audience against him, Federer sent him packing in the Semis.

This Australian Open was not just his title to defend, it was his chance to finally prove he belonged to the same league of Rafael and Roger by backing up a Major title. His wilting out of the tournament today was not the first time it’s happened with him, so you can legitimately question both his constitution and his resolve. You can also seriously question whether he’ll ever reach his potential, or end up with a career like his mentor/idol/pal Marat Safin: exceptional talent derailed by demons, drama and disinterest. Djokovic has had ample chances to live up to the potential he kept screaming to the world he had. And he melted in the heat of the very spotlight he craved almost every time.

Dan Martin Says:

Regardless of how it ended, Roddick is in the best spot he has been in since the 2007 Australian Open. We all know how that ended, but on one hand Roger has not quite been as dominant if that is his opposition. On the other hand, Nadal and Tsonga both are quite capable of beating Roddick and Simon & Verdasco could also pull off a win so winning the final if he gets past the semifinal looks tougher on paper than it did in 2007. Should be interesting. For now the King is Dead and it is too early to crown a new King of Oz.

Kroll Says:

Wow! the Safina-Dokic match is a clerly a matchup about who is the lesser choker. Truly ridiculous!

Daniel Says:

Well, I can’t see Federer not winning this one. Let’s face it, Roddick win 3 sets against Fed! Don’t buy it! And Fed has never lost a hardcourt Grand Slam final, the only one that could do it, to me is Nadal 60-40 in favor of Federer. All this assuming Fed will pass Del Potro, otherwise I`ll ook like a fool.

It’s daid that Djoko had to retire, his rankings will drop to 9000 putting him far behind Nadal and Fed, and closer to Murray. The battle for number 1 between the top 4 seems to be going between top 2, as they dominate clay and grass. Djoko and Murray lost their chances.

Giner Says:

I only saw the first two sets, and I thought Djokovic played awesome in the first set. I’m quite disappointed he retired again. This time heat stress, fatigure and breathing problems. I’ve picked on Djokovic before for his retirements but some of those were due to injury. This wasn’t an injury. He said he was feeling bad.

In the end, he couldn’t handle the tough conditions. Roddick could, and these are the kind of things expected of players, especially top 3 players. It’s going to be hard for him to win majors again if all the stars need to be aligned in order for it to happen. Perhaps he got lucky last year and got all night matches? I believe that might have been the case.

Now I really think people were unfair to Justine Henin for that pullout to Mauresmo. She had stomache pain which is pretty much the same “I don’t feel good, couldn’t play”. The only difference between her retirement and all these recent ones is that hers took place in a final, while these didn’t. I can’t think of any other reason why people took exception to it. If this match was a final, there would be a serious stigma attached to his name for this pullout.

Based on the first set, I thought he looked likely to win had conditions been more favourable to him, but that isn’t how tennis is. He’s going to have to work on adapting to the heat, because he’ll be facing it many more times in his career, especially down under.

blah Says:

Federer is destroying Del Potro… setting up for a fed roddick match… let’s see if roddick can overcome that record.

Great effort by andy… always going out there and giving it your best does payoff.

Djokovic had three chances to become number two, one of them he only had to win an opening round match, guess the guy is still a bit physically and mentally fragile.

Polo Says:

How can you like this tennis commentators? They could not even remember that Federer beat Hewitt 6-0 7-6 6-0 for his first US Open title. That was a final and Hewitt was a highly ranked player at that time too. And nobody from the entire ESPN tennis crew can supply these incompetent babblers the information?

Ryan Says:

Del is overrated…….bottomline…with a double bagel thats all I gotta say.And this is wat fed does all the time. He makes good players look average so cant really blame roddick or robredo or whoever that was gettin it whipped all these years Even these young guns in a supposedly strong era is still gettin it from all angles when fed is on form.Even fed’s record against djokovic is 7 – 2. Sup wit the fed haters now…..and who cares for the smaller tournaments. When it really counts the only achilles heal for federer is nadal….end of story.

Morgan Says:

Voicemale1 .. Best explanation ever

jane Says:

Wow – looks like Federer had JMDP’s number. I knew he’d be no match for Roger but I didn’t think Roger would serve him two bagels! Maybe Berdych gave Fed a wake-up call? I think it will be tough for Roddick to beat him if he plays his best tennis, even though Roddick has looked sharp all tournament.

I don’t know what to say about Novak, except that obviously this was a bad way to begin the year.

To me, the #2 chances aren’t that much of a big deal; when he lost to Nadal at Hamburg it was too bad, but a lot of people lost to Nadal last year, and Rafa comes back against a LOT of players: even Roger has choked against him and/or Rafa has comeback against Rafa. I thought Novak played very well at Hamburg and Queens – both exciting and tight matches.

It’s the last 3 slams that to me have been both problematic and a letdown for various reasons:
At Wimbledon, he played badly against Safin.
At the USO, he struggled against Robredo then publicly reacted to comments (he should’ve kept his feelings more private).
And now, at the AO, he comes unprepared in some ways, and with a new racquet.

I do think he’s got some sort of health issues, whether it’s crappy conditioning, anxiety, or exercise-induced asthma. Something is up. But he needs to figure out a way to deal with it, fix it, and move on, if he wants to live up to his potential.

I also think he might have some issues off court: perhaps getting that tournament in Serbia has been distracting. At one point I heard the parents were having problems too, so I think he made the right decision to just come with only his team this year. He was pretty low-key at the event, but I still think he’s struggling internally. Maybe it’s just the pressure. But he needs to suck it up and deal with that if he wants to remain at the top.

In 2007, he played a lot of long matches and seemed generally healthier. He began 2008 well also, until mid-season when he tanked at Wimbledon. He still won Olympic bronze, and got to the semis at the USO. So there is no doubt he can play and get great results.

However he needs to become more consistent and stronger -both mentally and physically. I hope he can bounce back and have a good year.

jane Says:

“Rafa has comeback against Rafa.” The last “Rafa” should be Roger.

jane Says:

Roddick’s press conferences should be required reading. There’s always a quotable in there.

Djokovic and Roddick mentioned late night matches, how tough it is to recover because they don’t get enough sleep afterwards. Baghdatis also commented on this issue, at OZ in particular, he has had the short end of the stick in this regard a number of times – last year and this year. Beginning a match after 11:00 pm does seem too late. Esp. if you have to play your next match in the day. Djoko had this at the USO and here, playing late against Roddick then day against Fed, and late against Baggy then day against Rod. Of course it has to do with prime-time and varying who is shown during it. But maybe there’s some way to allow more recovery time?

Here’s what Roddick said – makes sense too since men are best of 5, women best of 3:

Q. Do you feel something should be done about that?

ANDY RODDICK: Well, my whole thing is ‑‑ my only suggestion would be ‑‑ and hopefully this will be well received ‑‑ if everything is equal all across the way, I feel like maybe the men should get the first match every once in a while during the first week of a Slam. If all things are equal, then I feel like the scheduling should be the same.

Top story: Wawrinka, Nishikori, Cilic Escape with Wins on Day 1 at Australian Open