Roddick tries new tactics in battle to beat Federer

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The Independent Online

Andy Roddick, the world No 2, was not joking when he said that in order to have a rivalry with Roger Federer, the world No 1, he would need to win some of their matches. Federer has prevailed in eight of their nine meetings to date.

Andy Roddick, the world No 2, was not joking when he said that in order to have a rivalry with Roger Federer, the world No 1, he would need to win some of their matches. Federer has prevailed in eight of their nine meetings to date.

Both players, as expected, have advanced to the Masters Cup semi-finals here today. Roddick and his coach, Brad Gilbert, after analysing Federer's domination of the sport this year, concluded that Roddick cannot hope to unseat the magnificent Swiss all-court player simply by trying to bludgeon him with mighty serves and forehands.

Between the showers this week, we have seen a new, improved Roddick, punching volleys and driving backhand winners across the court and down the lines.

It was not Roddick's defeat by Federer in the Wimbledon final, 4-6, 7-5, 7-6, 6-4, that alerted the American to the need for change, but an experience closer to home.

"I felt I played great in the Wimbledon final," he said. "But when I lost to [Joachim] Johansson in the quarters at the US Open, I had been to the net six times in five sets against someone who's not known for his return. There were a lot of times where I would look at stat sheets, and there were not enough approaches, but that one really stuck out.

"You can talk about it for so long, but there comes a time where you have to try to implement it. This is where I wanted to give it a chance. Fortunately, I've been doing it well this week."

Patrick McEnroe, who has guided the United States to next month's Davis Cup final, has played a part in the evolution of the 22-year-old Roddick's game. "Captain McEnroe pointed it out to me as well," Roddick said. "Then Brad came in last week and definitely made a point that every practice we were going to work on transition game. That was that.

"The only way I'm going to learn is by trying it on a big stage and at important times. Hopefully, I'll be able to implement it more consistently in regular matches as well."

Roddick unleashed his variety show in his opening round-robin match against Tim Henman, defeating the British No 1 in a splendid contest, 7-5, 7-6. "Going into that match," Roddick said, "Brad said, 'He's going to put a lot of pressure on you. Just try as much as you can not to worry about him. Pick your shot and hit it'."

Henman was impressed. "He knows that I want to establish myself at the net, and if he serves and volleys it's hard for me to do that. All credit to him. I don't think it's something that he feels totally comfortable doing, but he's effective. When you serve that well on both first and second serves, it makes life on the volley a little bit easier."

Roddick certainly feels comfortable here at the Westside Tennis Club, where he twice won the US Clay Court Championship.

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