The Roddick V Nadal match up lived up to it’s promise with Nadal eventually winning 3-6, 7-6, 6-4. Whenever these two top player stand on opposite sides of the net it always makes for interesting tennis with Roddick’s huge serves and Nadal’s unrivaled defensive skills, not to mention new and improved serve. With Kylie Minogue, Carlos Moya and Rose Byrne looking on Nadal took some time shaking off the rust, having not played over the last five weeks after some problems with shoulder tendinitis. Roddick on the other hand has re-found his game after struggling for much of the season with illness and poor form.
Two double faults from Nadal in the opening set gave Roddick a 3-0 lead which he never relinquished. The same could not be said for the early 2-1 lead Roddick captured in the second, from which Nadal immediately recovered seemingly having found his rhythm.
Things looked difficult for the world number one when Roddick served to push for a tie break in the second set. Roddick’s tie break record, by far the best on tour, was an ominous sign, but the defensive skills of Nadal proved to be as strong as ever, particularly when engaged in baseline rallies. A beautiful backhand down the line from Roddick after a bad let call against the Spaniard allowed him to break back and level at 2-2. A poorly times forehand error from Nadal gave Roddick a crucial lead which Nadal dealt with after Roddick gave Nadal slightly too much room to move at the net. Nadal then followed it up with a blinding cross court backhand return with such incredible angle which was out of Roddick’s reach even though he was charging into the net.
Both players comfortable held their next service points, stepping it up with the pressure, Roddick defending set points with his mammoth dependable serve. But with friend Carlos Moya looking on beside Uncle Toni, Nadal’s forehand proved too hard to control as he pummeled the ball with his final set point, taking the tie break and forcing the tournaments first third set.
Roddick continued to play aggressive tennis, rising to the occasion, pushing the ball and Nadal around the court but Rafa had 14 forehand winner to Roddick’s two – an ominous sign for the American that his opponent had started firing on cylinders.
Nadal produced some incredible angles and Roddick’s all out attack was not enough. Rafa produced an incredible on the run cross court passing backhand to break Roddick for a 3-2 lead. The crowd start to chant, trying to drive Roddick on to keep the battle going. The forehand of Nadal grew increasingly deadly as the match progressed, Roddick struggling to contain the Spaniards power and accuracy.
Nadal continues to produce incredible angles and Roddick’s all out attack was not enough. Rafa produced an incredible on the run cross court passing backhand to break Roddick for a 3-2 lead.
With wife Brooklyn Decker looking on, Roddick looked like he was starting to fatigue as he ran out of answers for how to deal with the seemingly constantly in form Nadal.
Rafa powered away with an easy service game and a 5-3 lead that forced Roddick to serve to stay alive. To his credit Roddick continued to work hard, producing some incredible serves including a 140mph ace, and a brilliant approach shot to slow the Spanish assault. Nadal continued to move almost effortlessly around the court as he exploited any angle that the American left open.
Roddick battled to an advantageous 15-30 position in Nadal’s service game but the Spaniard was quick to extinguish any languishing hope of the world number eight. Commendable Roddick pushed and tried everything he had, only conceding defeat when Nadal put it away with a fist pump. After two and a half hours Roddick was loudly cheered, and rightly so, as he left the court.
Roddick may have forced Nadal to work for the win but after 5 weeks off that’s exactly what the Spaniard needed – and he wants this tournament and wants to make amends for his performance in London last year which just makes him even more dangerous for Novak Djokovic even if the Serbian is playing well.
“I came out of the gates aggressively and I think it caught him by surprise. He definitely wasn’t settled comfortably. He was missing more balls than normal. I think the difference was he found his range on his forehand in the second and third sets. It hinged on the breaker. I thought I played well tonight.
“I think the energy was great. It was fun playing tonight. I think it’s the way a World Tour Finals should look. It’s the best atmosphere I’ve played in as far as this event goes.” – Andy Roddick
“I was a little bit lucky tonight. That’s the truth. But at the same time I started the match a little bit nervous. Five weeks without play. Playing against the best players of the world in the more difficult surface for me, the first match will always be difficult.
I think I was very close to losing, that’s true. I was in critical situation when I lost my serve (in the second set) because that’s the normal thing. You play against one of the best servers of the world; I wasn’t feeling very well on court. What I can do is try to keep playing with positive attitude, try to play a little bit better, and wait the chance. It happened. For that reason, I am here today for the victory.” – Rafael Nadal