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Andy Roddick takes what Novak Djokovic gives him

TENNIS

March 21, 2009|BILL DWYRE

The air barely moved in the desert Saturday at the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells. The same thing could be said for a couple of men's tennis players.

When Andy Roddick beat defending champion Novak Djokovic in one quarterfinal, the effort on the Serbian's part was barely discernible. And he admitted as much afterward.

Movement was also hard to define on the part of Juan Martin Del Potro in the other quarterfinal, but that was not so much for lack of effort as lack of a motor.

The Argentine is 6 feet 6, and while talented and hard-hitting, playing against a coiled yo-yo the likes of Rafael Nadal made poor Del Potro looked like a big lug.

The good news was that the much-anticipated Nadal-Federer match was one day closer.

In today's semifinals, No. 2 Federer will play No. 4 Andy Murray of Britain and No. 1 Nadal will follow with his match against the popular United States player, No. 7 Roddick.

Fans treated Roddick here with proper enthusiasm for a home favorite, and many might be just as happy to see Roddick in the final.

One thing is certain. A Federer-Nadal matchup would make the price of Sunday's admission more than worth it, even if that might not have been the case Friday.

Roddick ran through No. 3 Djokovic, 6-3, 6-2.

It was almost as if Djokovic wasn't there. And to hear the defending champion talk about it afterward, he wasn't.

"Overall, it was a very bad day," he said. "There's not much to say. He played very solid . . . he didn't do anything special. It was all me, making an incredible amount of unforced errors.

"I just didn't have any momentum on the court. No feel for the ball, no movement. Just no solutions."

Djokovic didn't blame the heat, didn't blame anything but himself.

"It was just something else . . . some other reasons. Just hard to explain."

Roddick also beat Djokovic in the Australian Open quarterfinals, when Djokovic defaulted in the fourth set and has now won three of their five matches.

Roddick knew this wasn't Djokovic's best day, and said so. He also said he had no idea why or what was going on.

"I'd just be guessing," he said.

Roddick lost in the semifinals to Nadal in 2007, the year Nadal won this tournament, preceded by three straight titles for Federer.

The 6-2, 6-4 score Friday in Nadal's victory over Del Potro indicated a rout similar to the one Roddick endured in 2007, but that wasn't the case.

The first real hint of Del Potro's talent was his quarterfinal finish in last year's U.S. Open.

At age 20, he has worked his way up to No. 6 by starting the season with a 15-3 record. But that went fairly quickly to 15-4 once he got on the court with the current best player in the world.

Nadal ran through the first set and kept right on going to 4-1 in the second. The effect of that was to trigger a traffic jam at the exits.

But Del Potro, who doesn't so much move as he unravels -- slowly -- kept banging away, even when Nadal broke him again for 5-1.

Eventually, he forced Nadal to serve for the match at 5-4. And guess what? Nadal did just that. At love.

Satisfaction is not simply in victory for the sensational Spaniard. Minutes after he beat Del Potro, he was back out on the practice courts, banging away.

Why, when you have just won, 6-2, 6-4, do you go right back out and practice hard, Nadal was asked.

"Didn't practice hard," he said.

He said he was happy with the first part of the match against Del Potro, but not happy with the later stages.

He was also asked about his diet, a question triggered by the two huge chocolate chip cookies he brought along to the interview.

"I think I can eat anything," he said. "The cookies for the stomach, not good. But good for the head."

There was no transitional question about whether he thought playing Roddick would be a piece of cake.

Sunday's women's final was set Friday when defending champion Ana Ivanovic of Serbia, also the defending French Open champion, beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia in the night semifinal, 6-2, 6-3.

Her opponent will be fourth-seeded Vera Zvonareva of Russia, who stopped Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, 6-3, 6-3.

--

bill.dwyre@latimes.com.

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