Andy Roddick has discovered a new way to play your best tennis: part company with your coach, spend more than 20 hours on three different airplanes flying halfway round the world, arrive at your next tournament the day before your first match, sleep badly and feel like a zombie on court.
Twenty-four hours after beating Rafael Nadal, the world No 2, here in the Barclays Dubai Championships, Roddick recorded his fourth successive straight-sets win of the week by knocking out Novak Djokovic, the world No 3. In today's final he faces Feliciano Lopez, who recovered from 2-5 down in the final set to beat Nikolay Davydenko.
Roddick, who has just split from Jimmy Connors, his coach, left Memphis, where he was playing last week, on Saturday night. A tortuous journey via Washington and Frankfurt saw him arrive here in the small hours of Monday morning and he has been on court every night since Tuesday, beating Juan Carlos Ferrero, Paul-Henri Mathieu, Nadal and now Djokovic.
"I was miserable the first two nights I was playing," Roddick admitted. "Against Ferrero I was a zombie. But I'm thinking about going home and trying to wake myself up every three and a half hours the way this week has gone."
While the warm conditions and fast court here suit his huge serve, which he has yet to drop this week, there was plenty more to enjoy about the world No 6's 7-6, 6-3 victory. He constructed points intelligently, cracked his forehand with his usual venom and held his own on his backhand, where Djokovic concentrated his attack. Roddick's confidence was summed up by one glorious running forehand pass, which he swerved back into the court from at least a foot outside the line.
At 5-4 to the American in the tie-break, the umpire twice called a let on a Roddick serve that Djokovic failed to reach. The Serb, who immediately walked over to play the next point, said later that he had not heard the umpire's call. Roddick played on and took the set.
Djokovic, who had only two break points all night, held on in the early stages of the second set, but when Roddick broke to lead 5-3 the game was up. Djokovic admitted he had felt nervous before the match but said he was satisfied with his work, especially as he is still recovering from flu.
Lopez, who won 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 after his opponent's game fell apart in the last five games, has also had a remarkable week. The world No 41 came here having lost four of his five matches this year but has beaten Tomas Berdych (world No 10), David Ferrer (No 4) and now Davydenko (No 5).