Instead of going into why Roger Federer will beat Andy Roddick this morning to claim his 15th career Grand Slam title, passing Pete Sampras, I thought I’d write a post offering a flip-side view. A view that Roddick actually can beat Federer.
It’s a true longshot, and one if it came to pass would rank among biggest upsets in tennis history. Given Roger’s 18-2 lopsided head-to-head advantage, his domination on grass and his ability to seize major moments – Roger’s never lost to anyone but Rafael Nadal in a Grand Slam final – there’s very little support out there for American Andy.
And I think even Andy would agree with that, but the American does have a chance, albeit a very slim one. But there are some things I think he can do to tip the scales in his favor.
First, Roddick has to serve absolutely massive. But that’s not as simple as duplicating his serving performances against Andy Murray or Lleyton Hewitt. Over the course of their matches, Federer’s always had a good a read on Roddick’s serve. But Federer does say that some days he simply doesn’t. Unfortunately for Roddick those days are usually at night or indoors under the lights, conditions Roddick will likely not have today (rain dance?). And if Roddick is not serving near 70% first serves and/or cracking aces he’ll go down in straight sets. So hit your serve Andy, and hit it hard.
Since Federer is such an incredible front runner, Andy will be best served to jump on top of Roger early. To me that means getting really aggressive when returning serve and attacking Roger during his first few return games. Maybe he can sneak an early break and steal the first set. Maybe not.
Roddick also has to get as many balls back into play as possible during rallies. That doesn’t mean blasting winners, but rather making Roger hit that extra shot. Federer likes the pace and if Roddick gives him a steady diet of fuel it’s advantage Swiss. But the longer the rally goes perhaps the better chance Andy can lull Roger into throwing in a shank or supplying an unforced error (yes, it’s a stretch I know!).
However, that said I would still like to see Andy go after Roger’s serve and take some chances.
There’s been lots of talk about Roddick’s improved net play. Personally, his approaches and his net game are just not strong enough to win him a Slam against a guy like Federer. My preference would be for Andy to stay away from the net, only coming in when a positive outcome is all but assured.
Andy needs to get into tiebreaks! Roddick has to be riding an absolute tiebreak high. The 26-year-old has won 16 of his last 17 tiebreaks or so since Indian Wells so if he can reach that stage of a set he’ll have to be feeling confident.
Roddick’s also been stealing a page from the Federer book, specifically Federer’s “chip and dip” strategy he often employs to sucker guys into the net. Roddick been using it for quite a while now, but against the inventor, I think Andy should shelve this tactic. I don’t think he has the touch to pull the shot off against a player who has the net game of Federer.
And above all Andy’s has to have belief. Andy was a bit emotional after beatin Murray, mentioning that he was unsure of whether he’d ever have another chance at a Slam final. Well, he now has that opportunity and he has to go for it. He cannot be content and happy just by reaching the final. And I don’t think he will be. And he has to forget that he’s only won two sets in seven meetings with Roger in Slams.
Overall, the game plan I would set out for Federer is simple. Smash serves, smash return of serves, otherwise keep the ball in play using the slice and the backhand down the line to get Roger stretched wide. Roddick will also have to be closer to the baseline to account for Federer’s added dropshot.
Of course this match really rests of Federer’s racquet. If he comes out, plays his game he’ll win. If he’s missing his groundstrokes and off his game, then Roddick has a chance if he does the right thing. But on this stage with what’s in front of Federer, it really is a tall ask.
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