Aiming at 4th title in Washington, Roddick is ready for his favorite time of year

By Howard Fendrich, AP
Monday, August 2, 2010

Roddick has long known he’d excel on hard courts

WASHINGTON — Andy Roddick realized early in his career this part of the season would present an opportunity for him to excel.

This is when, leading up to the U.S. Open, the tennis circuit moves to hard courts that add zip to his serves and forehands, the foundations upon which his game is built.

In all, 19 of Roddick’s 29 career titles have come on the surface, including, of course, his one Grand Slam championship at the 2003 U.S. Open.

His first quarterfinal at any ATP tournament came at age 17 on a hard court at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic, an event he would later go on to win three times. He’s back in Washington this year as the No. 2-seeded player and has a first-round bye.

“It’s always nice to go back to places that you’ve done well,” Roddick said Monday. “It’s certainly one of the best times of the year for me. Everything’s comfortable. … I always get excited about it.”

His first match at Legg Mason is scheduled for Tuesday night against qualifier Grega Zemlja, who eliminated Benjamin Becker of Germany 6-2, 6-3 Monday. In other action Monday, Igor Kunitsyn of Russia beat Kei Nishikori of Japan 6-2, 6-3 in a match between qualifiers, and Karol Beck of Slovakia beat Michael Berrer of Germany 6-3, 6-4.

Roddick got a taste of hard-court competition at Atlanta last month, when he made a late decision to enter as a wild card so he could get in some work after his earlier-than-hoped-for loss in the fourth round at Wimbledon. But he sees the Washington tournament this week as the true beginning of a stretch that he hopes will end with success at the U.S. Open, the year’s last major championship.

He’ll also play in hard-court events at Toronto starting Aug. 9, and Cincinnati starting Aug. 15. Play begins at Flushing Meadows on Aug. 30.

Yes, over the next three weeks, he wants to win matches and titles, and he aims to accumulate ranking points, prize money and confidence.

More than anything, though, the 27-year-old Roddick seeks to get his game in gear.

“I don’t feel like I’ve gotten my feet into the summer yet,” he said. “Obviously, these three events are pretty much at the beginning of the year what you circle for your U.S. Open preparation — or at least I do. So this is kind of where the preparation for New York starts, in my eyes.”

That preparation will focus in large part on what he considers the two biggest work-in-progress parts of his tennis, his service returns and his footwork.

Get those right, and he figures he will contend at the U.S. Open.

First things first, though.

“You don’t want to get ahead of the wagon, so to speak. I don’t even want to think about the Open at the moment,” Roddick’s coach, Larry Stefanki, said after a practice session Monday. “It would be nice to get into a flow, get into a win streak, get matches under Andy’s belt and kind of build up to the Open. It’s a process, and these are great tournaments leading up to the Open, and hopefully he gets off to a good start after Wimbledon.”

will not be displayed