RELATED: Davis Cup Title Everything to Bryans; Roddick Poised to Complete Davis Cup Quest
By Matthew Cronin, special to USTA.com
Andy Roddick was so charged up to strike the first ball in the Davis Cup final that while a nine-year-old Jezreel Harper was belting out the last note of the national anthem, Roddick jumped out of the team line and began rapidly clapping while everyone else was still standing still, eyes towards the roof at Portland's Joel Coliseum.
The 25-year-old top American has been waiting for this chance to lead his team to its first title in 12 years for two and half months and showed few nerves in crushing Russia's Dmitry Tursunov 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 to give the U.S. a 1-0 lead.
Roddick was fired up, but played a remarkably composed match that he controlled with big serves, deep and solid groundstrokes and consistent returns. Tursunov was hoping to draw Roddick into a marathon from the baseline, similar to the four and half hour sweat fest they contested last September on clay in Moscow in the Davis Cup semifinals. However, Roddick was much more accurate than his sloppy and stage-struck foe and was consistently able to hit through him.
“It's tough to keep it in check,” Roddick said. “I definitely had to make a conscious effort to go out there. I knew I was going to be tight the first couple of games. That was a given. But I wanted to be able to kind of maybe serve my way through a couple of games, get my feet in. Once I did, I felt pretty good out there actually. I didn't get overly excited, but I thought I did when it was needed.”
The fireballer boomed 25 aces and only faced one break point during the match. While he only broke the rugged Tursunov four times, he made him work very hard on his serve, holding 17 break points during the match. He never allowed Tursunov to get on a roll because he rarely played silly shots during his opponent's service games and was dominant on his own.
“Dmitry's a pretty streaky player,” Roddick said. “He has some ups and downs in a match. One of my biggest goals was to try to return well, so he was having to play every service game, so I'm giving myself a chance to give him a chance to play a bad game. I was able to do that.”
Roddick is one of those players who feeds off the team concept and a home crowd that he knows is bound to be behind him. Unlike at regular tour events, Davis Cup is not a personality contest, so he doesn't have to worry about a few thousand fans showing up and hooting and hollering for the super popular likes of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. No, fans attend Davis Cup to pull for their home team and whomever is donning team colors. At Joel Coliseum, 12,000 strong stood up and roared for Roddick during the last game as he shut Tursunov down.
“Having been as a kid and then all of a sudden you're the guy out there; I've been in that crowd going mental,” Roddick said. “Now to be the guy they're going mental for during a match is something you don't expect or ever think about or ever think will become a reality. That crossed my mind a lot when I was out there. The expectations I had were pretty tough to surpass, and I think it did that. That last game when they just stood up was probably one of the coolest moments of my career so far.”
Roddick competes better when he is playing for something bigger than himself, when he is asked to take a leadership role. He is a cheerleader for himself after nailing winners. He has a bigger bounce in his step when he wears U.S.A. on his cap. He is more intense and more intent on securing victory.
“I've learned to play better in Davis Cup,” said Roddick. “My first couple years I didn't really play that well in Davis Cup. I won some matches against people I should definitely beat, but struggled in some of the matches that were a little bit more of a toss up. It's a different feeling. It's a feeling that used to make me pretty uncomfortable, but I've embraced it now. I don't know why. It's something that gets inside you. You're not just playing for selfish motives. It's something you dream about. It's normally a big situation. I feel like I normally play okay in those types of situations.”
Winning the Davis Cup title has been his one of Roddick's main career goals since he joined the team in 2001 and had been his primary goal since he fell to Roger Federer at the US Open. He is undefeated this year in Davis Cup, with a 6-0 record, and on Friday, registered his 26th singles win, putting him just one behind Arthur Ashe at No. 3 on the all time list. Roddick could conceivably catch Davis Cup warrior Andre Agassi (30) next year, and has chance to catch the U.S.'s most decorated player, John McEnroe (41), before he ends his career.
But after opening victory, he jogged out to the bench to cheer for his good friend James Blake and is sure to be one of the loudest men in the stands when the Bryan brothers attempt to perform their doubles magic on Saturday.
“You don't make individual goals for Davis Cup, “Roddick said. “ It's surreal. [To be] tied with Arthur Ashe is just insane. You never think that's going to happen. The only other people are McEnroe and Agassi. So, I mean, those are some pretty amazing names to be on a list with, that's for sure."