By Jason Brown, USTA.com
La Jolla, Calif. – Cool, calm, and collected, a resurgent Andy Roddick ended Romania’s stay at the sandy shores of the Pacific Ocean, locking in an intriguing match-up with Chile in the world group quarterfinals.
Defeating Razvan Sabau in straight sets, 6-3, 6-3, 6-2, the U.S. number one redeemed himself for his sickening Friday, and earned the team a hard-fought 4-1 overall victory.
“I tried to put whatever happened Friday aside,” said Roddick, who improved his career Davis Cup singles record to a sturdy 18-7 before a three-day sellout crowd of over 15,000 fans at the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club.
“It’s just always nice to clinch a tie. I’m lucky enough that my teammates put me in position to do so.”
The U.S. will now prepare to host their second Davis Cup tie of the year, April 7-9, against Chile, a team that just defeated the Slovak Repbulic, 4-1, on red clay in Rancagua.
“They have a couple of great players,” said McEnroe, already very familiar with the top-heavy Chilean roster.
“Gonzalez particularly has played really well in the last year or so on different surfaces. He’s won a tournament indoors, played well at Wimbledon on grass. Massu has struggled a little bit in the last year, but he’s still obviously a dangerous player as we saw at the Olympics. I’ll sit back and talk to the guys and see what our options are as far as sites and surfaces and plan accordingly.”
Playing the frequent role of stopper, Roddick clinched a Davis Cup tie for the U.S. for the sixth time in his career, dating back to a home series against India five years ago as an 18-year-old.
“I hadn’t thought about it really,” said a modest Roddick. “It’s funny because we’re oblivious to that stuff until it gets brought to our attention. I mean, it’s nice. I want it to keep going but, I don’t see how my win is any different from any of the other three (wins) that we got. I think it’s just timing.”
Last September, Roddick defeated Olivier Rochus of Belgium in a marathon five-set World Group Play-off that earned the United States the right to keep their spot in the elite world group.
Nearly 48 hours after losing his lunch and a grueling five-set match to Romanian veteran Andrei Pavel, Roddick appeared refreshed.
Dubbed “Operation Resuscitation,” Roddick made light of his forgettable night in the sickbed as he recounted a phone call early Sunday to team trainer Doug Spreen.
“I called Doug in the morning. I woke up like 8 am. He wasn’t up yet. I just left a message. I go, ‘Doug, it’s time to go over the plan for Operation Resuscitation.’”
Employing different tactics than he had used against Pavel, Roddick played less aggressive countering Sabau, but more effective.
Taking a slight bit of pace off his serve and vocalizing fewer bursts of raw emotion, Roddick was clearly following a strategy devised in his pre-match meeting with team captain Patrick McEnroe.
“I was going to make him earn it,” said Roddick of Sabau, a career journeyman ranked No. 112 in the world. Sebau was filling in for teammate Victor Hanescu, unavailable because of a rib injury sustained in the double rubber on Saturday.
“I wasn’t going to go and try to beat the cover off the ball today. I wanted to see if he could create.”
Neutralizing Sabau in the first set with a flurry of slice backhands, Roddick picked his spots like a grizzled veteran, waiting for opportunities to open up and uncoil crushing forehand winners.
Following a nine-minute first game, Roddick broke Sabau after the 28-year-old netted a second serve. A second break sealed the set for A-Rod, 6-3.
Already showing signs of wearing down, Sabau dropped his first service game of the second set, opening the door for Roddick to seize a quick two-set lead.
The match lasted just an hour and 40 minutes, two hours fewer of on-court time than he had played against Pavel on Friday.
“I’m glad I wasn’t extended too much,” said Roddick, who was able to get down solid food the night before at a team steak dinner.
“I kind of put it on cruise control early and was trying to not overexert energy between points. I felt fine, but I didn’t want to test it too much and find out how deep I could go.”
Following Roddick’s series-clinching victory, the U.S. team, McEnroe, Roddick, James Blake, and Bob and Mike Bryan, did a victory lap around center court hoisting the American flag.
Afterwards, Blake put a bow and ribbon on the successful weekend at La Jolla Shores with a comprehensive 6-1, 7-5, thrashing of young Horia Tecau in the final rubber.
“It was awesome. The guys had a great week,” said McEnroe, who thanked tournament host Bill Kellogg and the pristine La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club. His sentiments were similarly echoed by Blake and Roddick.
“You couldn’t have asked for a better site and location, and the organization was fantastic,” said McEnroe.
“The crowd was great – we’ve packed every day. We probably could have doubled the crowd, but we like to keep it intimate in Davis Cup. When you walk out there each day and there’s not a seat to be had, that gets the guys fired up and that’s what Davis Cup is all about.”