Monday, March 29, 2004
Loss may help Swede beat A-Rod in Davis Cup
By Cynthia Faulkner ESPN.com
KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. -- It might have looked like a preview of next week's Davis Cup tie between the United States and Sweden, but when Andy Roddick plays Jonas Bjorkman, you never know which way it will go. On Monday night at the Nasdaq-100 Open, it went Roddick's way.
Said the Swede about losing to Roddick twice before: "Maybe I learned a bit."
"Winning tonight really doesn't do anything to help our chances in Davis Cup," Roddick said of the 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 victory.
If, as Roddick said, there are few surprises for him when playing Bjorkman, this match might be more help to Bjorkman, who said he has begun to figure out how to return against the former No. 1.
"Maybe I learned a bit from the two losses I had before," Bjorkman said, "and I've been taking a step back from my normal position, where I normally return from. And that's sort of been helping me to get the ball in play a lot more."
Being told in the morning that he wouldn't be selected for Davis Cup didn't keep Vincent Spadea down. Spadea defeated Radek Stepanek 3-6, 6-2, 7-6 (3) to advance to the fourth round.
Spadea said he never expected to be picked for Davis Cup. Instead Mardy Fish, who lost in his opening round here, was selected to fill the final singles spot alongside Roddick. Bob and Mike Bryan will play doubles. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe sought out Spadea to tell him in person.
"It showed me that he's taking notice that I'm, you know, making a good comeback and that I have a good streak going here," Spadea said.
It is possible to name five men to the Davis Cup team, although McEnroe said based on experience that he thinks it is better for the players to know their roles in advance. But he did leave the door open for Spadea if he continues to play well this week.
"He made this decision real tough," McEnroe said. "If he wins the tournament, I'd be pretty stupid not to take that into account."
Despite losing, Bjorkman is still confident about his chances against Roddick.
"After beating him last time in Doha, I definitely felt that I have a perfect game to beat him," he said. "I know when I get to Davis Cup that I have a chance."
Bjorkman had the most impressive play of the night when he hit a shot behind his back for a winner.
"I was thinking, 'This is really beautiful,' " Roddick said. "He hit that shot and now we're at 30-all at 3-all in the third. That was a cute shot."
Roddick said he tried to pretend it was just a passing shot. Seemed to work.
"Just too bad that I didn't get the next one in play because I think that is momentum that you can actually use of having things turned around," Bjorkman said.
Roddick also hit a great shot to get the break at 4-3 in the third set. And he did it with his backhand rather than his usual inside-out forehand. After a furious exchange of backhands, Roddick sent one down the line behind Bjorkman. At first, Roddick thought he hit it long.
"Luckily, I gave myself a little room," Roddick said. "But even when you hit a shot like that, you can be really, really sure that it's going in, but you still have that little thing in the back of your mind that says, 'I hope I didn't just really screw that up.' "
He faces a tough matchup next in Guillermo Canas. In their only matchup, Canas defeated then-No. 12 Roddick at the Tennis Masters Series-Toronto in 2002 during a run when Canas took out four top-10 players.
"So, I'll definitely be looking forward to that," Roddick said. "Either way, I'm going to have to hit a lot more balls than I did tonight, that's for sure. It will be a different type of match than I've played thus far in the tournament."
Cynthia Faulkner is the tennis editor at ESPN.com.