Sunday, August 17, 2003

Perfection eludes Roddick in victory


American commits just one unforced error vs. Mirnyi

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[img]
Andy Roddick raises his arms in victory after beating Max Mirnyi, 7-6, 6-4.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
| ZOOM |
MASON - Andy Roddick was three games shy of what might be called a perfect match. Up a set and 3-1 Saturday over Max Mirnyi, Roddick was sitting on 28 winners and zero unforced errors.

Then at 15-all, Mirnyi followed his serve to the net, Roddick set up for a forehand passing shot, and ... ripped it into the net.

Was Roddick aware he was approaching history?

"Yes," he said with a smile. "And I wanted to fricking finish with no unforced errors, because I'll never do that again."

This is the nitpicking one must do these days with Roddick's game.

In his tough-but-efficient 7-6 (5), 6-4 victory in the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters semifinals, Roddick played the cleanest match of his career: 39 winners, one unforced error, 14 aces and no double faults, landing 73 percent of his first serves.

"... And I barely won that match," Roddick said. "That shows you how great Max was playing."

In fact, at the midpoint of the first-set tiebreak, Roddick had amassed 20 winners and nine aces - and was about to lose the set. He trailed 5-1 in the breaker.

"I was thinking, get one (point) on his serve, and if I could hold (service) out, I'll give myself a chance," Roddick said.

And he would. Roddick hit a passing shot off a Mirnyi second serve; Mirnyi had a volley pop off the top of the net and fall back; a Roddick backhand skipped high off the net and forced a Mirnyi mishit volley - three huge points on Mirnyi's serve.

"He certainly plays well right now in the critical moments," Mirnyi said. "... He's so confident."

Roddick is 29-2 since teaming with new coach Brad Gilbert and is aiming for his third title in four weeks.

Mirnyi, who with Monday's new rankings will improve on his career-high No. 26 position, was nearly as efficient as Roddick. The 6-foot-5 Mirnyi totaled 35 winners and just five unforced errors. He landed 69 percent of his first serves, totaling eight aces.

Yet there's little margin for error against Roddick. Serving in the opening game of the second set, Mirnyi had a double fault and missed an easy forehand volley - his lone unforced error of that set - to make it 30-all. Then Roddick nailed forehand passing shots on the next two points to gain the service break.

Roddick, who has won 46 of 47 service games this week, faced a break point when serving at 3-2. But he slammed a 131-mph ace, and Mirnyi never reached break point again.

"When two guys are serving like that, one break can make the match, and it did," Roddick said.

The big-serving ballet made for several easy points by both servers, contributing to Roddick's near-perfection. Greg Sharko, a communications director for the ATP, said he wasn't aware of a player ever finishing without an unforced error.

"I didn't think I'd ever play one with no unforced errors," Roddick said. "I don't know if I'll ever get another chance."

Andy Roddick

Seeding: 7

Ranking: 4

Season: 53-13, 4 titles, $1.3 million

Hard courts: 32-7

Tennis Masters Series: Won first title last week in Montreal

Career tournament finals: 9-4

Path to final

def. Fernando Verdasco 6-3, 6-2

def. Ivan Ljubicic 6-1, 6-4

def. James Blake 7-6 (2), 6-2

def. Mariano Zabaleta 6-1, 6-2

def. Max Mirnyi 7-6 (5), 6-4

Head to head

1-1 vs. Mardy Fish

---

E-mail nschmidt@enquirer.com




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