Roddick win proves him the world's 'best bad player ever'

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The Independent Online

Andy Roddick sometimes calls himself "the best bad tennis player of all time". The 25-year-old American has 25 titles to his name and has not been out of the world's top 20 for more than six years, yet he has spent a professional lifetime answering questions about the deficiencies in his game.

Apart from his thunderous serve and booming forehand, it is said, the world No 6 cannot play. And when Jimmy Connors helped bring about a rise in his fortunes following his appointment as coach two summers ago, all the talk was of the genius of the eight-times Grand Slam champion rather than the man with just the 2003 US Open to his name.

Roddick, who parted company with Connors 10 days ago, insists he has not had a point to prove, but his performances over the last week here at the Barclays Dubai Championships have told their own story.

The American had never played here before and arrived, exhausted after three separate flights in 24 hours, the day before his first match. Yet before Saturday night's final against Feliciano Lopez, Roddick had not dropped a set in his previous four matches, against Juan Carlos Ferrero, Paul-Henri Mathieu, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Lopez got closer than the others but was worn down by Roddick's sheer consistency and lost 6-7, 6-4, 6-2.

"I was literally asleep on the floor in the players' lounge before my first match, with people stepping over me and Djokovic dropping stuff on me," Roddick said. "I didn't even warm up that day because I was so tired. I really didn't know what to expect. Maybe that's why I played well. I knew I was playing pretty well in my first two matches, but to come out and control my match against Nadal was a big confidence boost for me."

Roddick served 84 aces in his five matches here, but there was much more to his success. While his forehand was in great shape, the improvement that Connors has brought to his backhand was especially evident. Opponents targeted his weaker flank all week, but to no avail.

"I felt I was dictating the rallies with my backhand, keeping it low and hitting it pretty hard," Roddick said after the final. "It's probably not my best shot, but I don't know that it's a glaring weakness any more."

While Nadal and Djokovic are spearheading a new generation of players, Roddick believes he can still be a contender for the biggest prizes. "Sometimes I tell people that I'm the best bad tennis player of all time," he said. "I feel that a lot of the time people talk about up-and-coming players and say they do a lot of stuff better, but I do end up winning a lot of the time.

"If you look at my record against the rest of the top 10, with the exception of Roger Federer, it's pretty good for a guy who can serve but can't really volley or hit a backhand or whose forehand isn't really big any more. The list goes on and on and on, but there must be something there. I'm going to try to figure out."

He added: "I can play tennis sometimes, besides the serve. Ivo Karlovic serves better than I do and he's No 30 in the world, so there has to be something to it. I'm serving well but I'm hitting my forehand pretty well and there's not much I've been unhappy with this week."

Roddick paid full credit to Connors for helping to make him more of an all-round player. When asked whether this week had shown he did not need a coach he replied: "I don't think you can discount what we tried to work for in the last year and a half in a matter of five days. To compare this with baseball, if a coach has a successful run with a team for four years, he leaves and all of a sudden the next year the team are still good, the coach probably had something to do with it."

A questioner asked whether this week could signal the start of a Roddick revival. "I guess it's a back-handed compliment to talk about a resurgence when someone is No 6 in the world," Roddick smiled. "But this week has been a different level from what I've been playing."