One Racket Man: Miami CC
I'm posting this as a breaking news item tonight, but it will be your Crisis Center post for the Sony Ericsson Open's women's final, which starts at 12 PM tomorrow.
The big news on Key Biscayne this evening was Andy Roddick's semifinal loss to Nikolay Davydenko. It was a win built on the platform of Kolya's almost skater-like ability to glide around the court and hit penetrating groundstrokes. But there was a less familiar, almost outlandish sub-plot: Davydenko's serve. He consistently kept Roddick out of his service games, which allowed Kolya to think more about breaking Roddick than about being broken. Roddick saved five of eight break points but had only one break point of his own (he did convert it). It was supposed to be the other way around.
After the match, Roddick said: "The thing you normally don't see about him is the way he served tonight. I remember last fall he had problems getting the serve in. (Tonight he) came out and served - I don't know what he ended up with, 75% plus. He goes for first serves, which he doesn't do that often. He made it tough for me in rallies. Because once he gets on top of a rally, he's pretty good about switching directions and driving the ball to the corner. So I think his serve helped him a lot in his service game as far as taking control of the points."
And when Roddick tried to attack and keep Davydenko from opening the court, stroke-by-stroke, he failed to execute at the required level. Roddick blamed some of his troubles on a mediocre transition game, but let's face it - on any night when Roddick is serving above 70 per cent and he still loses a tiebreaker and gets broken three times, the guy on the other side of the net has some big juju working.
Fittingly enough, the magic poured from a single, irreplaceable racket that Davydenko has been using here this week. Explaining why his game suddenly caught fire here after a disappointing tournament at Indian Wells, he said:
"Because I change racquets here after Indian Wells. I have the same racquet, Prince, just. . .I have before 16 string; now 18 string. Now I have more control. That's what is surprising - I have only one racquet. I play all five matches (with) just with one racquet. I didn't change any racquets. I have not any one (other) racquets. It should be coming, you know, next week to my home, but with one racquet I play three sets (tonight). I didn't change, you know, like, and I was surprising myself, you know."
Of course, Davydenko had a bunch of his old rackets handy, in case he popped a string in his enchanted frame. But the only thing he ended up popping was a handful of aces (6 to Roddick's 9) - and Roddick's balloon here at the event where just last night he took out Roger Federer.