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He'll Look Out for More Than No. 1

Roddick admits he focused too much on Federer and not enough on other rivals. Now he intends to change that.

March 10, 2006|Lisa Dillman | Times Staff Writer

Long before the marquee matchup of Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal existed, there was another potential men's tennis rivalry filled with tantalizing promise.

Federer vs. Andy Roddick never got the necessary liftoff, despite plenty of media and fan support. When the rivalry didn't quite happen, due to Federer's dominance, Roddick was hit with a barrage of questions and suggestions about what he needed to do.

Unfortunately for Roddick, they were coming from a source close to home -- himself.

"I think maybe I got caught up and was thinking so much how to beat one guy, I forgot about everyone else," Roddick said Thursday. "And that seems to be all I heard about, so maybe I became obsessed with that thought a little bit. I needed to get back to what made me [number] one in the world, and then two in the world."

Notice he didn't say Federer's name. Almost everyone in the interview room at Indian Wells Tennis Garden knew he was talking about the man who has won the last three Grand Slam tournaments.

Just call the No. 1 player in the world: He Who Shall Not Be Named.

"I made adjustments with him in mind," Roddick said. "Yeah, I think you have to make adjustments with him in mind and apply them against him. Not lose what you're doing against other people. Now I have to find a way to get there.

"It wasn't solely for one guy, but a lot of the stuff was done with him in mind."

So, while the eye will stay on Federer, Roddick's field of vision has expanded, by necessity. He is ranked No. 3 and is seeded third at the Pacific Life Open behind Federer and Nadal and will play either Jose Acasuso of Argentina or a qualifier Jeff Salzenstein in the second round.

But by all accounts, 2006 has been a trying one for Roddick on many levels.

He lost in the fourth round at the Australian Open to Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus, in the semifinals at San Jose to teenager Andy Murray of Scotland and in the quarterfinals at Memphis to French qualifier Julien Benneteau.

"I haven't had a bad stretch like this two months in four years," Roddick said. "To me, it's proven a point, and it's a valid point, you have to prove yourself every day out here. I think that's fair. It's a little weird and all [the wins are] forgotten."

Roddick's self-awareness has helped him change direction in the past, even if that meant parting ways with a coach, most recently Dean Goldfine, whom he replaced with his brother, John Roddick.

John already influenced one decision. After Memphis, Roddick pulled out of his next tournament, in Las Vegas.

"My nature is you fall off the horse, you get back on and you just keep going," Roddick said. "He said, 'You know what, let's just calm down. Let's get back. Let's get to work a little bit.' "

It was also John's idea to sit down and watch some game film, tapes of Roddick from the last few years. Andy Roddick was angered by a bad day at practice, and they skipped an afternoon session and watched the tapes, separately. The visuals helped illustrate what he'd been hearing.

"Some of it was pretty eye-opening," Roddick said. "From the stuff I've been hearing, and then from everybody's opinions, to see what actually took place, it wasn't surprising, it was, 'OK, I understand now.' "

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