Roddick ends perfect week with victory in battle of the big serves
Sunday 09 March 2008
Feliciano Lopez served 24 aces to Andy Roddick's 22 in their shoot-out here tonight in the final of the Barclays Dubai Championships, but it was the American who proved there is more to his game than pure firepower. Roddick recovered from the surprise of losing his first set of the tournament to win 6-7, 6-4, 6-2 in an hour and 54 minutes to claim the 25th title of his career.
It has been an excellent week's work for Roddick, who was making his debut here. Despite arriving from Memphis, where he was playing last week, on the day before his first match, the world No 6 has been in top form from the moment he set foot on court against Juan Carlos Ferrero in the first round.
Consecutive victories against Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, the world Nos 2 and 3, took Roddick into the final to face an opponent who had had an equally impressive week. Lopez beat three top 10 players (Tomas Berdych, David Ferrer and Nikolay Davydenko) in consecutive matches for the first time in his career and despite this defeat will climb around 10 places from No 41 when the new rankings list is published on Monday.
The fast courts and warm conditions have suited both players. Roddick's huge serve was not broken during a week in which he hit 84 aces. Lopez, who took his tally to 69, does not serve with quite as much power as the American but makes full use of his advantages as a left-hander.
If the Spaniard is the better volleyer, the key difference here was the quality of the two players' ground strokes. Roddick's forehand had more power and control and his backhand held up well under Lopez's constant assault. On several key points Lopez attacked the net with approaches to the Roddick backhand only to be surprised by the American's power and placement. Roddick said he found Lopez's sliced backhand hard to deal with, but the Spaniard’s lack of an effective topspin shot on his weaker flank was a crucial weakness.
There were only three break points in the first set, Lopez saving one in the second game and two in the eighth. Roddick drew first blood in the tie-break when Lopez missed a simple volley at 1-1, but from 1-4 down the Spaniard recovered to take a 6-5 lead after recovering the mini-break with a superb forehand pass down the line. Lopez saved Roddick's only set point with an ace and at 8-8 leapt in the air as the American put a backhand into the net. A service winner on the next point gave Lopez the set.
Both men were holding serve comfortably in the second set until Roddick broke to take a 5-4 lead. The American forced the first break point of the set with a fine return to feet and Lopez, who had won his previous service game with three consecutive aces, handed the world No 6 the game with a double fault. Roddick served out to love to take the match into a decider.
His confidence shaken, Lopez played a miserable game to drop serve in the opening game of the third set. A shanked forehand gave Roddick break point, which was converted when Lopez put a limp volley into the net. The Spaniard continued to target Roddick's weaker flank, but two fine cross-court backhands forced volley errors as Lopez was broken again at 4-2. Roddick, who did not have a break point against him all night, completed the match in appropriate fashion with an ace and a service winner.
"I felt I played well throughout," Roddick said afterwards. "When I was a set down and 4-4 in the second it wasn't as though I was struggling to hit the ball. I was always confident that I'd be able to play the next point the way I wanted to. He was playing really well in the first two sets, but sometimes you put enough pressure on someone and they crack. He did at the end of the second set and in the third set I played pretty well."
He added: "I stated a couple of weeks ago that a big part of my decision to come here was to try to get a shot at the top players. I was able to do that and the success here has made that seem a good idea. I'm just happy to be playing some really good tennis right now."
Lopez thought he had played "almost perfect tennis" in the first two sets and felt that mistakes had cost him the crucial break at 4-4 in the second. "In the third I was feeling a bit tired," he added. "He was returning my serve better and playing much better from the baseline. It was tough for me to win the points in the third set."
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