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Roddick Is Guardian Angel to U.S. Effort

Tennis: He improves to 7-0 in Davis Cup, clinching quarterfinal victory with straight-set win over Spain's Martin.

April 08, 2002|LISA DILLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

HOUSTON — Andy Roddick was in fully animated character, which meant he was playing a crucial Davis Cup match. Hyper turned into super-hyper Sunday.

Knowing he could clinch the Davis Cup quarterfinal against Spanish substitute Alberto Martin, who replaced an injured Alex Corretja, Roddick's stomach started feeling it in the van ride more than two hours before their match at Westside Tennis Club.

Butterflies, he said. "I'm always nervous, man," Roddick said.

It only took 1 hour 45 minutes on the court for butterflies to turn into a "snow angel" on the grass.

Roddick always manages to do something creative when he wins a big match, or loses one, for that matter. When he put the United States in the semifinals--after Martin hit a backhand return out--Roddick fell to the grass on his back and started waving his arms after his 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 victory.

"I was doing a snow angel," he said. "I did it when I first got here. The first one was on my face."

Roddick, 19, may have spent a lot of time tumbling on the grass, but he did not fall on his face when put in such a critical spot. Though he clinched the match against India in October, that was a relegation round, not in the World Group. He is 7-0 in Davis Cup play, equaling the best American start since Andre Agassi.

His victory against Martin gave the U.S. a 3-1 win against Spain. The final reverse singles between James Blake and Tommy Robredo was washed out by rain in the second set with Robredo leading, 6-1, 5-4. It was not canceled until 6:15 because Spain apparently refused to concede and wanted Blake to retire.

"They're being babies," Davis Cup Coach Jim Courier said of the Spaniards.

U.S. captain Patrick McEnroe said the injured Carlos Moya and Juan Carlos Ferrero might have played if this match had been in Spain.

"I think there's a real good chance they would have found their way there," he said.

Next will be the semifinals against France in September, possibly at Roland Garros in Paris on clay.

McEnroe said he spoke to Agassi about returning to the team during the recent tournament in Miami, and sensed a flicker of interest.

"Yeah, I've always sensed that it's possible he would come back, just as I did with Pete [Sampras], I felt that under the right circumstances," McEnroe said. "And obviously I'm not going to put pressure on him. I only want him to play if he wants to play."

By defeating Spain, McEnroe equaled the accomplishment of his predecessor, older brother John, who reached the semifinals in 2000, but lost, 5-0, to Spain on clay.

He also had a John-like moment with the chair umpire Sunday, unleashing some colorful language in the second set after consecutive questionable calls.

"You can only take so much," McEnroe said. "It was unusual, but necessary."

He probably ended up preventing a major explosion from Roddick. Roddick, who had 17 aces and four double faults, was broken only once, when he served for the second set at 5-2. It was his most complete performance in Davis Cup action, and McEnroe thought it was his best match.

"I freak out a little bit during Davis Cup," Roddick said. "It's just the emotion of playing for your country, and the crowd going nuts. Playing for your teammates, it's just a rush."

Roddick has shed the rookie status quickly. Others feel he has become a leader, but he wasn't grabbing the title just yet.

"I wouldn't go as far to say leader, but I definitely feel like I'm part of the team, not just visiting," Roddick said.

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