The five reasons Andy Roddick will beat Roger Federer in the Australian Open semifinals:
5. BECAUSE ROGER’S BACKHAND CAN BE AS SHAKY AS ANDY’S — The Swiss’s backhand wing looked awful last year — mono of the backhand. Of late it has regained its composure, but can Andy break down the Fed backhand and get some free points by attacking that wing? Which Fed will show up Thursday, the one that made 43 unforced errors in three sets in the first round, or less than that in five sets in the 4th round?
4. BECAUSE ANDY IS NO LONGER 200 POUNDS OF LUMBERING AMERICAN — New coach Larry Stefanki convinced Roddick to shed some pounds and get back to his fighting weight during his No. 1-ranked days — and it has paid off with noticeably-improved movement and balance. With his work during the off-season, Roddick is as fit as anyone out there, as he showed by…
3. SENDING A MESSAGE WITH A WIN OVER NOVAK DJOKOVIC — Roddick melted down the world No. 3 Djokovic, who retired from the heat in Melbourne. While Djokovic was getting an almost-full-body ice-down on the sidelines, Roddick was pacing the baseline — in the sun — waiting for the Serb to take the court again. Roddick looked like he was about to start doing jumping jacks on court, and he should have. Hammer that message home. Federer took notice, and a quicker Roddick might effect how the Swiss approaches the contest.
2. THE ONE-MATCH WIN STREAK — Sure Federer is 6-0 versus Roddick in Slam play, but in their last meeting in 2008 at Miami, the American gutted out a three-set win. Always a big confidence-builder (and Andy is a confidence player) to step up to that service line, look across the net and think, ‘What happened last time we played? Oh that’s right — I won.’
1. FALL FROM GRACE — The Fed detractors point out that he can no longer maintain the ridiculous-high level of the past few years (and who can? That was the greatest streak ever). And during this fortnight of play, Federer has again been up and down. Which Rog will step on the court Thursday, the one that dropped the first two sets to Tomas Berdych in blase fashion before rallying to win in five, or the Fed that de-pantsed Top 10er Juan Martin 6-3, 6-0, 6-0?
Or, the five reasons Federer will beat Roddick:
5. ROGER IS THE KING AND KNOWS IT — A wash for the Greatest of All Time (GOAT) in any generation (even Rod Laver said so), Federer has a confidence that is like having an additional player on court. Whatever the score, he is walking, talking, drinking, adjusting his headband, toweling off and playing like he expects to win (hear that Tomas Berdych?) — whatever the score. And when he speaks to the media, he does so in a fashion borderlining on arrogance, but you can’t say anything because — basically, because he’s Roger Federer, and is it arrogance if he’s right? When he holds court with the press he has a regal way of pseudo-talking-down to his subjects while maintaining the truth of the matter. On Roddick reaching the semis, he said, “I’m excited playing Andy. Sometimes people expect him to win 25 Grand Slams and he’s one of my generation who was able to stay at this level for, what is it, five, six years now? That’s why I’m excited to play against him and seeing him create an upset (beating Djokovic) in a big tournament. That’s what has kind of been missing for him in the big tournaments lately.” Translation: ‘Roddick is a great player who hasn’t been able to win Slam titles because, basically, I’ve been winning them all. And it’s cute that he’s been able to get this far in a Slam with his poor big-stage results of late.’
4. HE OWNS RODDICK AT THE SLAMS — The best players perform big on the biggest stages, and Federer holds a 6-0 advantage over Roddick in their Slam meetings. Slams are where you raise your game, and they are where the Swiss has excelled. Roddick needs to show he can consistently break through the Federer-Nadal-Djokovic-Murray wall in front of him at the Slams (he beat all of the Fab Four in non-Slam tournaments last year).
3. ANDY’S WEAPONS DON’T FAZE ROGER — With a sixth sense as to where the Roddick serve is going much of the time, Federer also chases down the Roddick forehand with his underrated speed. Roddick needs to launch serves and hit the forehand with abandon to beat Federer, dictating play with less spin on the forehand than he has been exhibiting thus far in Melbourne. Grip it and rip it.
2. NO MORE MONO — Federer seems to have finally thrown off the physical (and probably psychological) effects of being diagnosed with strength-sapping mono going into last year.
1. TWO WINS AWAY — Federer is two wins away, one over Roddick then either Rafael Nadal or Fernando Verdasco in the final, of tying Pete Sampras’ record of 14 Grand Slam singles titles. Greatness is calling, and an Aussie Open title (which would be two Slams in a row after winning the US Open) along with tying Sampras’ record would erase any doubts that Federer, whether or not he is still ranked No. 2 behind Nadal, is indisputably once again on top of the tennis heap.
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