Roddick Hangs Tough

John Isner
Nicholas Woodbury/
BB&T Atlanta Open
Andy Roddick is known for bringing a lot of things to the table during a tennis match: A huge serve that once held the title of being the fastest in the world, one of the most accurate and deadly forehands in the game and a heart on his sleeve that has won over many adoring fans. But facing the 6”9 giant John Isner, Roddick knew he had to bring more to this semifinal if he was going to win against a younger player with an even bigger serve-forehand combo and who draws an ever loud and faithful Georgia crowd. Thus, Roddick conjured up his smartest display of all-court tennis to beat Isner in a thrilling 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-4 victory.
Roddick showed his twelve years of experience on the tour from the outset of the match, dragging Isner into long rallies with a seemingly endless barrage of slices, high spinning groundstrokes and volleys to confound Isner into a handful of errors off the forehand. Isner, meanwhile, appeared unable to figure out the Roddick puzzle, as his typically dominating serve-forehand combo went strangely missing. Every Isner serve seemingly had a chip reply from Roddick, forcing Isner to reluctantly play another ball he normally never sees coming back. At 3-all, Isner had made 3 forehand errors off of shots well out of his strike zone as Roddick mixed up his shot selection beautifully, gaining the break. Big serves drove the rest of the set as both players painted lines and nailed corners. Finally, a Roddick kick serve closed out the set at 6-4.
If Roddick was a magician on court, Isner could best be described as a bulldozer, as he responded to Roddick’s variety by hitting bigger, bolder and flatter. Isner showed the crowd in the second set why he’s made it to the top ten in the world by punishing Roddick with his big game. While Roddick’s strategy was to hit anything but flat, Isner’s was to paint every line with the flattest forehand he could manage. At 4-all, Isner hit 4 aces to take a 5-4 lead. But Roddick, too, showed how big his serve was, responding with a few aces and unreturned serves himself. Thus, a serving clinic carried players and fans into a tiebreak. It was Isner who struck first, taking a 1-0 lead on Roddick’s serve after clipping the tape with a forehand that skidded past a flailing Roddick. The players traded points back and forth, with Roddick cracking under the pressure of the Isner power game, tossing his racquet in frustration after not getting a return in play. At 6-5, Isner flummoxed Roddick with a forehand that Roddick could only flail at, sending the match into an exciting third set.
The final set turned into a question of who could seize the moment first, as Roddick’s slice began to be less and less effective. But just as Isner seemed to be gaining the upper hand and Roddick’s variety appeared to fall flat, Roddick once again found his range on Isner’s return. With Isner serving at 3-4, Roddick became relentless on Isner’s serve, blocking, chipping and brushing every serve back into play, once again creating a masterpiece of a game as a frustrated Isner could not land a forehand in the court. At 15-40, however, Isner climbed out of a hole hitting monstrous off the forehand to send it to deuce. A few big shots and a couple of wasted break points later, Isner had a 4-all lead and the crowd behind him as Roddick tossed his racquet across the court, frustrated that it could not produce magic on one more point.
Getting to 4-all took its toll, however, as Isner finally stumbled under the pressure of having to hit each shot perfectly on the line to win games. Isner, for his part, valiantly tried Roddick’s variety game, seeing the forehands missing. But a badly timed decision to serve and volley on match point cost him, as Roddick placed one more ball in just the right place to outwit Isner.